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Locals had ties to Ford

By Rose Post

Salisbury Post

Maybe you read in Thursday’s Post that at least one Salisbury resident — Marc Hoffman, Rowan County’s well-known band leader and composer — reacted personally when he heard that Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, died Tuesday.

And he shared a memory of entertaining at the wedding of President Ford’s granddaughter.

That memory quickly prompted a couple of others.

Charlie Peacock, well-known in railroad circles, called to “add another Rowan County connection to Ford. I haven’t seen one word about Earl Ruth, long-time athletic director at Catawba College, and the late President Ford.

“He and Ford were congressmen together, played handball together and were good friends.

“And when Earl Ruth was defeated seeking another term in Congress, President Gerald Ford appointed him governor of American Samoa, a small American trust island in the Pacific.”

Shortly thereafter came word of the close relationship of another Rowan County couple — Tim Besmer and his wife, Aleen, of Rockwell, who not only knew President Ford well but have been trusted with many of his personal artifacts which have been shown to Rowan County students.

When word came of President Ford’s death, Besmer wrote a letter to friends and to the Post about his death, at the same time noting that he last spoke with him only a few months ago before he became truly ill.

“President Ford has been a great supporter of me and my endeavors lecturing to school children about the presidency and about our yacht, the USS Sequoia,” he wrote.

Ford was the last sitting president to use it under government ownership.

“He went so far as to dictate to me his memories of his cruises on Sequoia with JFK, while Ford was a Congressman.

“We had our Gerald Ford presidential artifact collection on display locally last year at the Rockwell Museum.”

And, Besmer added,” President and Mrs. Ford were also due to be our guests aboard the Presidential Yacht Sequoia for our 20th wedding anniversary in 2004 but become very ill at the last moment, but still had a special messenger sent written congratulations and a gift for us as did President Bush.

“The former president has entrusted over the years to my ownership and care his personal clothing, golf invitational memorabilia, high school yearbooks, wristwatches, photographs, autographs, Bob Hope photos, etc., etc., etc. The purpose was to allow those items to be shown to school students around the country during my presidential lectures.

“I also own his family Limoges china from his Grand Rapids home that has also been displayed in museums with the former president’s blessings and assistance.”

“We’re planning a memorial cruise in honor of Gerald Ford aboard the presidential yacht with Mrs. Ford, the four children and children, hopefully some time in March.”

Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or rpost@salisburypost.com.

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