Security tight at Betty Ford memorial service; several dignitaries expected
An honor guard representing all branches of the military will serve as pall bearers Tuesday at former First Lady Betty’s Ford’s memorial service at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert.
The music for the ceremony also will be provided by Sgt. 1st Class Alvy Powell, a soloist with the U.S. Army Chorus. The Fords first met the army chorus and Powell when Gerald Ford served as vice president under Richard Nixon.
Over the years, the chorus and Powell performed at President Ford’s funeral in 2006, the dedication of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the unveiling on his statue on Capitol Hill.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church lies along the Palms to Pines Highway in Palm Desert at the foot of the rocky Santa Rosa Mountains.
A bank of television cameras, photographers and reporters were cordoned off across the five-lane highway from the church.
With First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former first ladies Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton scheduled to attend the afternoon memorial, security outside the church was tight.
The U.S. Secret Service, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, FBI and members of the U.S. Air Force Reserve based at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside were patrolling the church and surrounding neighborhoods.
Along with bomb-sniffing dogs, the sheriff’s bomb squad and SWAT unit arrived in the morning.
Highway 74, known as the Palms to Pines Highway, also was closed to traffic in front of the church, and airspace overhead was restricted.
-- Phil Willon in Palm Desert
Photo: The Riverside County Sheriff's Department starts a security sweep along Highway 74 in front of Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Desert several hours before memorial services for former First Lady Betty Ford. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times