Susan Ford Bales

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Susan Ford)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Susan Ford Bales
Susan Ford 1999.jpg
2nd Chairwoman of the Betty Ford Center
Assumed office
January 25, 2005
Preceded byBetty Ford
Personal details
Susan Elizabeth Ford

(1957-07-06) July 6, 1957 (age 65)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Charles Vance
(m. 1979; div. 1988)
Vaden Bales
(m. 1989; div. 2018)
RelativesSteven Ford, brother

Susan Elizabeth Ford Bales (born July 6, 1957) is an American author, photojournalist, and former chair of the board of the Betty Ford Center for alcohol and drug abuse. She is the daughter of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States and his wife Betty Ford née Bloomer.



Ford is the youngest child and only daughter of former U.S. President Gerald Ford and former First Lady Betty Ford. As a teenager attending the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, she held her senior prom, for the class of 1975, in the East Room of the White House.[1] She served as official White House hostess when her mother was hospitalized for breast cancer.

Ford enrolled in Mount Vernon College for Women (now part of the George Washington University) in northwest Washington, D.C. in 1975 when her father was in the White House. She later briefly attended the University of Kansas for the spring semester of 1977, but did not graduate.[2][3]

Ford and Siamese cat "Shan Shein" at the White House in 1974


Bales trained as a photographer and worked as a photojournalist for the Associated Press, Newsweek, Money Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Omaha Sun and also freelanced.[4] She was hired to shoot publicity stills for the film Jaws 2,[5] with many appearing in Ray Loynd's book Jaws 2 Log.[6]

In 1992, she became a member of the board of the Betty Ford Center and in 2005 became chair of the organization. She succeeded her mother, who remained a board member.[7]


In 2002, Bales wrote, with Laura Hayden, a novel, Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery, with a contemporary White House setting; in 2005, a sequel, Sharp Focus, was published.

Public events[edit]

Bales attended the December 26, 2006 – January 3, 2007 state funeral services and ceremonies for her father with her mother, and over the course of several days greeted mourners while President Ford's casket lay in state on the Lincoln Catafalque in the Capitol Rotunda and during the public repose at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[8] She read a passage from the Epistle of James during the funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral, and her daughter Tyne Berlanga offered one of the prayers during the funeral service at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids.[9] In addition, on January 1, she assisted her mother in receiving dignitaries and official visitors who had come to Blair House, the presidential guest house in Washington, to pay their respects.

Bales christens Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) in Newport News, Virginia on November 9, 2013

On January 16, 2007, Bales spoke at a naming ceremony at the Pentagon[10] for the aircraft carrier CVN-78, which was officially named the Gerald R. Ford. That same day, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter announced that Bales had been named the carrier's ceremonial sponsor. On November 14, 2009, Bales participated in the keel laying for the ship.[11][12]

On June 11, 2007, she delivered remarks in Washington at the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service's commemorative stamp honoring President Ford. In July 2007, Bales represented her mother at the funeral service of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson; in the same month, she and her husband Vaden Bales represented Mrs. Ford and the Ford family at the naming of the Gerald R. Ford Post Office in Vail, Colorado.

On November 9, 2013, she christened the Gerald R. Ford with a bottle of sparkling water.[13]

On April 8, 2016, during a change of command ceremony aboard USS Gerald R. Ford and in recognition of her "extraordinary service as CVN 78 Ship Sponsor", she was named an honorary naval aviator by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, thus becoming only the 31st person to receive this honor, and the first woman ever to be so honored.[14] The ship was commissioned as USS Gerald R. Ford on July 22, 2017, with Bales in attendance to give the order, "Man our ship, and bring her to life."

In 2018, Bales represented the Ford family at the funerals of President George H.W. and First Lady Barbara Bush.

Personal life[edit]

Susan E. Ford married Charles Vance, one of her father's former U.S. Secret Service agents, on February 10, 1979. For a time, they operated a private security company in Washington. They have two daughters, Tyne Mary Vance (born 1980) and Heather Elizabeth Vance (born 1983). Susan and Charles Vance were divorced in 1988. Susan married attorney Vaden Bales in 1989, from whom she was divorced in 2018.

In Betty Ford's Betty – A Glad Awakening, her mother credits Susan with having orchestrated an intervention in 1982 after the Ford family became concerned with her drinking, addictions and behavior.[15] In 1984, Bales and her mother, Betty Ford, helped launch National Breast Cancer Awareness Month[16] with a joint appearance in an ad campaign.

She and her second husband lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after their marriage on July 25, 1989. In 1997, they moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they lived for nearly 12 years before returning to Tulsa in 2009. She has since divorced and relocated to McKinney, Texas. In 2010, at age 53, Bales went into sudden cardiac arrest while exercising on an elliptical machine. She had no prior knowledge that she had heart disease. Bales says she was "extremely lucky" that while she was in the gym, a surgeon was "walking up the steps" and "shocked" her back. She was revived with an automated external defibrillator. After her recovery, she was given a heart stent and pacemaker. She spoke of the experience on June 4, 2013 at the American Heart Association's Heart Ball in Grand Rapids.[17]


  • Degregorio, William A., The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (5th edition), Barricade Books, Fort Lee, New Jersey, 2001.
  • Wead, Doug, All the President's Children, Atria Books, New York, 2003, ISBN 0-7434-4631-3


  1. ^ "Senior Prom at the White House". Ghosts of DC. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
  2. ^ Maines, Sophia (December 28, 2006). "First daughter briefly attended KU". Lawrence Journal-World. Lawrence, Kansas. Retrieved June 30, 2016. Ford enrolled at KU for the spring semester of 1977, studying photojournalism.
  3. ^ Clifford, Garry (June 22, 1981). "The Agent of Change in Susan Ford's Life Has Been Hubby Chuck Vance". People. 15 (24). Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  4. ^ " Live Online". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 29, 2008.
  5. ^ Kachmar, Diane C. (2002). Roy Scheider: a film biography. McFarland. p. 76. ISBN 0-7864-1201-1.
  6. ^ Loynd, Ray (1978). The Jaws 2 Log. London: W.H. Allen. ISBN 0-426-18868-3.
  7. ^ "Addiction Treatment - Betty Ford Center - Rancho Mirage, CA".
  8. ^ "Bushes pay respects to Ford in Capitol - Yahoo! News". Archived from the original on January 10, 2007.
  9. ^ Religion Blog | The Dallas Morning News Archived May 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 26, 2008. Retrieved November 17, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Gerald R. Ford ship ceremony brings Susan Ford Bales, family to Newport News, Virginia", The Grand Rapids Press, November 13, 2009.
  12. ^ "Susan Ford Bales writes her initials onto a metal plate during the keel laying and authentication ceremony", The Navy Newsstand, November 14, 2009.
  13. ^ "It's official: The Navy's newest aircraft carrier is christened in the name of Gerald R. Ford". Daily Press. November 9, 2013.
  14. ^ "For Navy's newest carrier Gerald R. Ford, a noteworthy change of command". Daily Press. April 8, 2016.
  15. ^ Romano, Lois (November 8, 2011). "Betty Ford Center's Messy Path After Former First Lady's Death". The Daily Beast.
  16. ^ National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  17. ^ Thomas, Sue (June 4, 2013). "Susan Ford Bales tells of surviving sudden cardiac arrest: 'I was extremely lucky'".

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by Chairwoman of Betty Ford Center
Succeeded by