Betty Ford once described her mother-in-law, Dorothy Ford, as the “perfect person to raise four very strong young men.” Dorothy was, by universal agreement, a “doer.” Her oldest son recalled that, “She not only worked awfully hard in the house…” but, “she was very active in numerous local organizations.” Such activity she had found in her parents, Levi and Adele Gardner. Both were among the founders of Harvard, Illinois. Adele was active in civic affairs, and Levi was a businessman and the town’s third mayor. By 1912 he and his business partner, L. H. Stafford, were in Grand Rapids developing real estate along Burton Avenue.
When Dorothy divorced Leslie King, she and her son first stayed in Chicago before moving to Grand Rapids to live with her parents. While attending St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, in the center of the city, she met Gerald Ford. After their wedding in 1917, they lived on Madison Street, in a duplex shared with Gerald’s mother and sister.
“She was a very loving parent,” Junior said of his mother. Dorothy was devoted to her husband and expected much of her children. “She was, in a firm but nice way, a disciplinarian,” said Ford. And the many qualities that endeared her to those who knew her, she passed on to her children. “I would say that most of the good characteristics I have, whatever they are, I inherited from her,” Ford recalled.