Man's brush with Ford memorable

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

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.

Hearing of the death of the man who replaced Richard Nixon in the White House, he decided to share a fond personal memory.

“In the late ’90s,” he wrote The Post, “my band was asked to entertain at the wedding of President Ford’s granddaughter in Winston-Salem.”

The bride’s father — the Fords’ son, Mike — who is student development director at Wake Forest University and has been there for 25 years.

“I said yes, of course,” he said, “and was very excited at the prospect.

“On the day of the big event, it was 103 degrees. I left home with time to spare but started to panic when I had a flat tire less than 10 miles from Salisbury.

“My friend, Aidan Sinnott, lived very near so I called and asked if I could change the tire at his garage. He was happy to oblige, and I limped the car the 2 miles or so there.

“Needless to say, I was a greasy, sweaty mess after changing a tire in that heat. I did what I could to clean up at Aidan’s but continued to perspire all the way to the Field House at Wake Forest, where the reception was held.”

When he got there, he wrote, he had plenty of time to get his equipment in and clean up for the reception.

“The Secret Service watched us unload the band equipment and PA (public address system) and then took us to the lockers to change. When we left the lockers, the doors were locked behind us for security reasons. I counted 10 Secret Service agents but assume there were more.

“Former President and Mrs. Ford had requested that they not be formally recognized at the event, as they didn’t want to take any attention away from their granddaughter on her wedding day. They did, however, take to the dance floor several times as they were very skilled ballroom dancers.

“After the bride and groom had a few minutes in the spotlight for their first dance, I invited all of the guests to join them. The Fords did so and danced a few songs right in front of me and smiled and nodded directly.

“After what turned out to be a wonderful experience, I left the event very impressed by this warm, gracious and close-knit family.”

And it made such a strong impression on him, he says, that he wanted to share the experience with the rest of us today.

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