Paul Jenkins was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Betty Ford Center, as well as a Founding Trustee of the Eisenhower Medical Center. Jenkins was interviewed for the Gerald R. Ford Oral History Project on December 4, 2008 by Richard Norton Smith.
Smith: What does it feel like to be back in this room?
Jenkins: It’s a wonderful feeling in a way, you know, my memories. I’m ambivalent. I’m sorry, but what comes to all of us. And he was a big part of my life for a relatively short period of time. Always the kindest person, thoughtful. My wife and I always said, “Wouldn’t you like to have them for next door neighbors?”
Smith: How did you become acquainted?
Jenkins: Well, I was active in the golf world and I was paired with him the first time he played in the Bob Hope Classic. In fact, I would take Bob’s place for one or two days. So we played Bermuda Dunes and that’s the first time I met him.
Smith: Now, was that after his presidency?
Jenkins: Yes. After his presidency, he came out and he played the Crosby tournament. Then he came down here and played in the Hope. He was a great competitor. He didn’t frolic around. He wanted to make all the putts.
Smith: Did his language reflect his occasional frustration on the course?
Jenkins: Oh, I’ve seen some explosive tendencies, which we all have from time to time.
Smith: Did you know he had a temper? And he had spent a lot of effort controlling it. Tell me about it.
Jenkins: The one I remember most vividly was down in Mazatlan, Mexico. The Betty Ford Center was establishing a unit down there at the behest of a very wealthy Mexican who had had his wife and his children in the Betty Ford Center up here. We went out to play golf and I had brought a friend of mine, Glenn Davis, the old Army halfback. Jerry Ford loved football and so they got along famously. We got out on the course and he didn’t play well. And the paparazzi in Mexico, we found, was just unbelievable. He finally lost his temper, but he got over it right away.
Smith: Did he have a sense of humor?
Jenkins: Yeah, he did, he had a good sense of humor, I always thought. Particularly if you were on a subject like golf or sports. He loved to recount his Navy days.
Smith: Really? What did he talk about?
Jenkins: Well, the story he told over again – near the end of his life – we’d go to lunch maybe once a month with him – he was a young ensign on a fleet carrier and they got caught in a typhoon. If you recall it, there was a book called Halsey’s Typhoon. And he came out from the officer’s quarters at midnight and they were in the midst of this typhoon and he almost washed overboard. A young member of the crew, you know how you get metal, he grabbed that and the crew member threw him back on board. He said, “I came pretty close to losing it all right there.” And he got a big kick out of Bob Hope, which everybody did.
Smith: Was Hope funny?
Jenkins: Yeah, people ask me that all the time. I had a thirty year relationship with him and I think of times – we’re now going to have the 50th anniversary of the Ryder Cup matches at our course down here. Well, there are only four courses west of the Mississippi that ever hosted the Ryder Cup. Bob was the non-playing captain of the American team. Lord Brabazon was the non-playing captain of the British team. So they both got up to say a few words and Brabazon said something about hiring unemployed comedians. And Bob said, “Yes, it’s true, I was born in England, but I left in a very short time as soon as I realized I had little chance to become king.”
Reagan would call him and ask him to get his writers to send him jokes that would be appropriate for some function.
Smith: I wonder what the president thought watching Hope in the last years which were –
Jenkins: Very sad. It was awful. And I think they learned a lesson. It was just not good.
Smith: Was it that he just couldn’t quit the stage?
Jenkins: Oh no, he was gone by then. He mentally was not functioning. He didn’t know where he was or who he was. And he was paraded around by people around him and some of his old friends thought it was a tragic error, including this one. He knew.
Smith: There’s a story – I think Penny, it must have been Penny – someone told me this story that tells you a lot about the both of them. That, before the very end, Hope would decide he’d want to play golf and call the president. The president would go out and they’d play one or two holes and then Hope would lie down. And the president would come back and then he would go back and get him when Hope was ready. Does that ring a bell at all?
Jenkins: Yeah, he had a nurse, a male nurse, with him most of that time and the nurse would say, “Well, let’s go have a drink.” And Bob, he hadn’t had a regular drink in twenty years and they’d go in and he’d have the bartender mix a little chocolate something and hand it to Bob and that satisfied him. He was placid. And he’d been so sharp, you know, so many times. I was a young stock broker and I was fortunate enough to get Bob’s account. There was a picture taken and he was standing – he was at a party – I was seated. He had his arm around me and I said, “Would you autograph this for my office?” So it came back and it said, “It’s like hugging my money.” There were just lots of little things like that.
Smith: Go back not that long ago, maybe the 80s, when the Fords sort of were new in town. For people who haven’t been here, I mean, you think about who was around – Sinatra and Hope and obviously a lot of old Hollywood-types – Alice Faye – even Spiro Agnew – was out here. What was the place like when they first arrived?
Jenkins: Well, I can’t say I can compare it to any place like that. I mean, it seems odd to say that, but it blossomed from an arid, virtually abandoned – our family came here in 1934 when there weren’t a lot of paved roads. And it just became a haven for some of the movie crowd. They would come down here. There were gambling establishments that were illegal, but were open here – half a dozen of them. So it was a playground for them and they’d come down and get away. Then people didn’t pay a lot of attention to their hijinks, you know. But later on when the Fords came in the 80s, that was not the case. It had gotten a lot more sophisticated. But the impression I had, it was so just mind-boggling as how they plunged into every charitable thing down here. They didn’t miss anything. Hope said at one of the occasions, he says, “Jerry and Betty Ford would go to the opening of a refrigerator door if they think it’ll help the community.”
Smith: What sorts of things for example?
Jenkins: Well, the Living Desert, they would come to dinner, which is a little wildlife…and the Hope Classic Ball, they were always there. We had a lot of different ones. They didn’t miss any of them.
Smith: Is there a season when a lot of these charitable events are concentrated?
Jenkins: Oh yeah, it starts after the first of the year, ends at Easter. It’s now _________, much more so, but for years, that was the season. Nobody came before Christmas. You stayed home at Christmas and came out after Christmas and everything exploded. The Hope Classic put it on the national scene and has been a wonderful contributor to charity.
Smith: I remember being surprised at the number of folks, when the president died, who overnight went through St. Margaret’s Church. There were close to 60,000 people who went through there. It brought home how deep the roots were that they had sunk in this area. That they were more than just celebrities you read about…
Jenkins: Well, yeah. You know, this is not original to me, but the people would constantly say to me, “They’re just so unassuming.” We would look forward to the occasions when they would ask us to the house for dinner. We would ask them for dinner. On one occasion, and this is illustrative of my point, they didn’t respond right away which they ordinarily did, so we became concerned. But there was no need for it because Betty picked up the phone and said, “We have a new puppy and we can’t housebreak her. We don’t want to leave the house. You come over here.”
Smith: Tell me about Mrs. Ford. You must have gotten to know her well.
Jenkins: I had great admiration for her because we sort of went through the birth of the Betty Ford Center together.
Smith: Tell me about that.
Jenkins: When they first embarked on that, obviously there’s always some doubters about the location and people, it had a certain stigma to it, which she erased fortunately, quickly. She brought Dr. Pursch, who was her guiding light, as you know. He kicked it off with a wonderful speech I’ll never forget. He said, “Trying to send an alcoholic to a psychiatrist is like sending a jellyfish to an orthopedic surgeon.” Anyway, Dr. West was another marvelous person, and he developed the curriculum along with John Schwartzlose. I was liaison because I’d been at the Eisenhower Medical Center since its beginning and we wanted to be sure that they didn’t make any egregious errors that would affect both of us, and they didn’t. And Betty would listen. She would listen to the people John sent and the people in leadership capacity and learn and do it. She never asked for any credit for that, but we all sensed that. We knew that we were very fortunate to have that kind of leadership.
Smith: She was never just a name on the door.
Jenkins: No, no.
Smith: And one sensed he was so proud of her for what she had achieved.
Jenkins: Oh yeah. And he quit drinking. Oh, he was, definitely.
Smith: There are stories I have been told. I guess there was an alumni event…It was not unusual for him to be on the grill cooking hotdogs in that kind of behind the scenes involvement in her center.
Jenkins: He was very conscious of everything that went on over there. I’m from a farm family and we used to say, “The best fertilizer is the owner’s shadow.” And that’s what Jerry Ford was at the Betty Ford Center.
Smith: That’s a great line.
Did he talk politics?
Jenkins: He did, but he never instigated that kind of a talk. The majority of our conversations – he told a story about, which I’d often seen him refer to was when he played in the East-West All-Star game. He was not the starting center, but the starting center got hurt in the first five minutes of the game, so he played the rest of the game. Then they paid for his trip back on the train and they sent him to Los Angeles and he got to go through a Hollywood movie set. And when he got back to Michigan, Arch Ward, who sponsored the college all-star game, said, “I’d like for you to play.” Now, he got paid $150 for each of those, which he saved for his first year in law school, Yale. He really needed that money. He was most proud of his football ability. He told me a story about playing in a driving rainstorm at the time and at the end, he said, “I was totally exhausted sitting in the locker room and Fielding H. Yost, who was an icon in football.” “Hurry up” Yost was the coach at Michigan- he came in, and he had retired, but he came in and put his arm around Jerry and said, “That’s the best game I’ve ever seen a center play.” He loved that.
Smith: That’s great. I’d not heard that.
Did he have a lot of friends?
Jenkins: Oh yeah. Pretty hard not to like Jerry Ford. Or else you got to believe in Santa Claus. Yeah, he had a lot of friends and I frankly don’t know his political friendships and enemies where he spent a lifetime. I would not be an authority on that. But in the local community, they were just idolized because they just never turned anything down.
Smith: How often did he play golf?
Jenkins: Well, he played two or three times a week. Quite a bit. Played in the afternoon, played nine holes a lot of the time. You know, when he first came down, and he hit the ball a long way. He had a bad reputation that was undeserved. His short game was not particularly good. If you can make those short games work, you can make a watch. That’s the part of the game that’s so frustrating, I think, for all of us.
Smith: It’s funny, I just saw yesterday, Golf Digest came out ranking the presidents as golfers. There were fifteen presidents who were golfers. The top three in their estimation were JFK, Ike, and Ford.
Jenkins: You know, I never played with JFK. I played with Nixon and I played with Ford and I played with Reagan. That’s not much of a judgment, but I know Bob Hope always said JFK was the best and you never saw anything in the press about him playing golf.
Smith: No, you didn’t. Well, because I think by that time, think how many Democrats had tried to make it into an issue with Eisenhower.
Jenkins: Oh yeah, they beat up on Eisenhower for having a putting green.
Smith: Now, Ike came out here in the winter, didn’t he?
Jenkins: Oh yeah, I was fortunate enough to be president of the club that he stayed at. He and Mamie were very gracious, they were wonderful to us. We were considerably younger, but they’d invite us over and he would barbecue in the backyard.
Smith: I often thought that Eisenhower was Ford’s kind of president.
Jenkins: Yeah, I think so.
Smith: Someone for whom really blatant partisanship was a – he didn’t have any time for that.
Jenkins: No, he didn’t.
Jenkins: And you know, one time Lyndon Johnson came out to visit Ike and Ike was getting in pretty bad shape so we were playing a little 3-par course over in Palm Springs. In fact, he’d played the day before and gotten a hole-in-one with Lyndon Johnson. So we were driving over to play it. Freeman Gosden, I was telling over at Amos(?), “Mr. President, would you mind telling us what you told Lyndon?” And Ike said, “No, not at all. He never did a damn thing I told him to do.”
Smith: President Ford took some heat particularly early on after he left the White House for going on boards and “commercializing” the presidency. What’s your take on all of that?
Jenkins: My general feeling is he paid his dues. I think it’s just almost silliness, for instance, for the three major automobile corporations’ heads to catch hell because they came down in a jet. I mean, do you want some guy that can’t afford the train to be running General Motors and Ford? These guys have proven their worth and in particular our presidents have. Now, to give an example that just makes my blood boil even now, I went to high school with a young fellow down here whose mother was a Cherokee Indian and his father was a Tobacco Road guy. We played football together and he got in the Naval V-12 unit and, he wasn’t a student, but he got his degree from USC and he went into the Navy and seen ships. Forty years later, he says, “Paul, this is Bill McGonagle.” I says, “Gee, Bill.” He said, “I’m retired from the Navy and I’d like to come over and play golf with ya.” I said, “Great. We’ll have some lunch.” Well, he walked into the room and I looked and there was a little…and I said, “Is that what I think it is, a Medal of Honor?” And he said, “Yeah.” He’d been captain of an intelligence ship, badly wounded, and saved the ship, go back to Malta, and the story goes on and on. But I said, “What do you get for that?” He said, “Four hundred dollars a month.” Now, you know, when I look at Madonna and Britney Spears and Bill McGonagle…
Smith: Your point is well taken.
Tell me about Ford – comedy about him stumbling and being clumsy, whereas in fact as we know, he was a real natural athlete.
Jenkins: Probably the best that ever served as a president, because he was versatile, for one thing. He could ski and… No, he kind of tossed it off every time. He just considered the source. But he had a pretty good relationship with the press, generally.
Smith: He liked reporters.
Jenkins: M-hmm. Yeah, he wasn’t afraid of the give and take like some of his predecessors.
Smith: And I assume here he was pretty accessible to journalists.
Jenkins: Oh, yes. A number of times I remember him mentioning that he had to stay because he had to do an interview with Brokaw or one of those ilk.
Smith: In his later years, did he play as often?
Jenkins: No, he became very frail and weak and he was very cognizant that he shouldn’t. He had one bad scene with the, oh, he was over at the private course and he passed out. It was a hot day and playing with Jimmy Greenbaum and a couple of others. That was a warning to him, I think.
Smith: How tough was it for him to acknowledge physical limitations? Because he was, as you say, he was a very athletic guy. He loved to travel. And I often thought, around his ninetieth birthday, I think when the doctors really advised him to cut back on the travel, that that must have been rough on him.
Jenkins: I’m sure it was, but he took it pretty well. I can recall a couple of times when I said, “How are you?” and he said, “Well, I’m old!” “Oh, well, I meant how do you feel?” He said, “I feel okay, but I’m old!” Occasionally we would be at a dinner party where someone could come up to him – case in point, a society lady at the house here started badgering him a little bit at dinner about the Warren Commission. And he tolerated that pretty well and then he finally got a little tired of it and said, “Listen, we were very capable. We did our homework. We’re utterly, totally convinced, unless you have some material evidence that’s different from ours, that we made the right decision.” And she put her napkin up and… It was pretty…
Smith: I think Oliver Stone was not one of his favorite people.
Jenkins: Oh, yeah. No, no.
Smith: I only heard him disparage two people and the worst thing he could say about someone was, “He’s a bad man.”
Smith: And one of them was Gordon Liddy and the other was John Dean. And, you know, when you stop to think about it, you can understand where he was coming from.
Jenkins: I recall, now that you mention that, one time we were playing golf and I know Jimmy Carter had done something and I was irate and he said, “He’s a good man, Paul. Breathe through your nose.”
Smith: They really did become friends, didn’t they?
Jenkins: Yes, they did.
Smith: Unlikely friendship in some ways.
Jenkins: Yeah, I thought it was. But they traveled, as you said, to distant places together and those were momentous occasions.
Smith: They’d also both run against Ronald Reagan.
Jenkins: I don’t want to touch that.
Smith: I mean, that was one of the things they had in common.
Jenkins: You might’ve put a third name in there.
Smith: Do you remember the last time you saw him?
Jenkins: Yes. We had lunch at Eldorado Country Club and I think Jim Greenbaum was with us. He stayed with him pretty much, they had a standing date for lunch. I was obviously struck by how frail he was, but he was mentally lucid. He hadn’t lost a peg there.
Boy, I miss him.
Smith: What do you miss?
Jenkins: He always came with an air of fun and, you know, I was not involved in anything serious with him, so we’d talk about our kids and our dogs and football. For awhile we had a standard ten dollar bet every time Michigan went to USC, the University of Spoiled Children. But I had a lot of ten dollar bills I collected for a while there.
Smith: Did he pay up with good grace?
Jenkins: Oh, we were at a formal dinner one time, he got up and “Where was I?”, he was asking the Secret Service. He wanted to pay me the ten dollars he’d lost New Year’s Day.
Smith: It’s funny, I never saw it but people who did testify. He wasn’t thought of as an eloquent man, but he would go back most years to Michigan for the Ohio game and he would find a way to go back and give a pep talk to the team. And it’s like someone flipped a switch. A whole different voice. And people who were there, not once but multiple times, said it was extraordinary. The kids ate it up, but obviously he tapped in to something. It was a real passion.
Jenkins: In relation to that, I have to say, you asked me earlier how did I feel about his stipends from lectures afterwards. He worked at that. He became much better as time went on. It wasn’t a situation where he was just showing up to be there, he had something to say and he put it very well. He got better all the time. So, and I talk to people, I didn’t serve on any boards with him of any consequence, but he always had his homework done and he walked in there with questions and answers that he wanted to have. It’s often given a Midwestern _______, but it’s more equivalent to, in my opinion, successful people. He had a work ethic.
Smith: He bordered on being a workaholic.
Jenkins: Yeah, he did.
Smith: I mean, you talk to people here, they worked Saturdays. He was in here part of the day Sunday as well.
Jenkins: Well, I’m sure he was probably that way in the White House, too. We had a caddy over at the club and we called him Freddy the Foot because if he liked you and you hit the ball out of bounds, he’d kick your ball back in bounds. So President Ford hit one out of bounds, we were playing over there and I saw Freddy go up and kick it. I said, “That the longest field goal you ever made?” and Freddy said, “Against the wind, it is.”
Smith: The president was willing to accept that?
Jenkins: Oh, the president knew what he was doing, yeah.
Smith: You know, there are wonderful stories about, I think up at Vail, early in the Clinton administration. President Clinton had, in fact, invited himself to play golf with the president and Arnold Palmer, who, I guess, is sort of cantankerous.
Jenkins: Can be.
Smith: Yeah. And, of course, being Bill Clinton, he played according to his own rules. And they played the whole day with lots of mulligans and Arnold Palmer was getting pretty steamed up over this. And at the end of the day, President Clinton said, “This is great. Let’s play again tomorrow.” And President Ford said, “Okay, but only if you play by the rules.”
Jenkins: And he never did that! He came out here and it was the same story. He had some hang-up that he had to shoot the low score. And, you know, Ike had a brother, Edgar, who was over at La Quinta, and Edgar was a better golfer than Ike. That preyed on Ike’s mind and Ike had a temper just like Jerry did, particularly on the golf course. He was mad at himself, but it got pretty quiet sometimes.
Smith: No clubs wrapped around trees or anything?
Jenkins: Oh no, nothing like that. In fact, they had a little thing at Eldorado Country Club. You’d make a bet for two dollars and on the ninth hole, there was a rock on the edge of the lake. And we would bet fifty dollars closest to the rock because Ike’s drive would always go right out by the rock.
Smith: To someone who’s never played the game, what is it about golf that has such appeal to people, particularly to hard-driving, hard-charging professional types?
Jenkins: I think, for one thing, it’s not a team sport, it’s all in you. And, it’s a game where you can play with one who’s not proficient. You know, do you put Pete Sampras with Charlie Parkenfarker(?) on the tennis court? Charlie’s going to wish he’d never seen him. But he could play golf and give him four strokes a side and it’s neck and neck. And it’s unique in that respect. The other area it’s unique in is, and I hope they never lose this, it’s traditionally your responsibility to play the game fairly and honestly. Instead of being an NFL lineman that said, “I didn’t do it!” Those are reasons, there are more reasons.
Smith: Is it relaxing?
Jenkins: I think so because to play well, you have to get your mind, you can’t play with any of these distractions in you. And I’ve spent a lifetime doing that.
Smith: Do you think that’s one of the reasons Ford found it so enjoyable?
Jenkins: Yeah, because, first of all, the challenge of getting better. The harder you try, the worse you do quite often in golf. It’s not a matter of trying. Everything has to click. You could look terrible in a practice and go out and play a good round of golf.
Smith: He did, on at least one occasion didn’t he, get a hole-in-one? It might not have been here, but…
Jenkins: Well, I’m sure he must have. It’d be rare to play as much as he did and not get a hole-in-one.
Smith: I see a picture of he and Steve. They played a lot in his later years, didn’t they?
Jenkins: I don’t know. I didn’t see Steve very often down here. When I did, obviously, they would go out, it was on Christmas holiday or something like that.
Smith: Did you see any of the other kids around?
Jenkins: Well, yeah, Susan all the time. Of course, she’s doing a wonderful job and I’m sure Betty’s very proud of that.
Smith: That must be, for someone to build something with your name on it in which you’ve invested so much passion, then to know the secession is taken care of in a way that you can relax.
Jenkins: Well, I’m sure, you know, she’s a worrier like all of us. She wanted to protect what she built and the ideal person was Susan. So, I think we’ve just seen the beginning of the institution.
Smith: How long were you involved with the Center? Or the Institute?
Jenkins: Well, gosh, I’m 81 years old as of Monday, so I probably got off when I was 72 or 3. From the very beginning, I was.
Smith: I’ve been told, by the way, that by more than one person that she, in effect, saved Leonard Firestone’s life.
Jenkins: Oh, no question about that in my mind. Leonard started drinking when he was fourteen years old. The gate guards to the Firestone estate would give him wine. Whew, boy, I think a part of the disease, if you want to call it that, is people have a tendency to fall off, fall back. I think it’s a part of it, sometimes. But, you know, Alcoholics Anonymous do a wonderful job. It’s interesting to me, just as a casual observer, that a very large percentage of the patients, and I saw a lot of them, are sensitive people and bright, which just enhances the tragedy of it.
Smith: And how did they react to her?
Jenkins: The patients loved her. Oh, man, you know, they couldn’t believe she’s over there working with both hands eight hours a day. Maybe that’s where Jerry got it.
Smith: I’ve been told that it was not unusual for a woman of a certain age to arrive there, resistant to being there and people at the Center would call Mrs. Ford, and whatever the time of day she would drop whatever she was doing and go over there and sort of sit on her bed and hold her hand and walk her through her own experience.
Jenkins: It was a remarkable experience. And I’m glad I got to go through it the way I did. I went in – they have a Professional In Residence program – and I went in and Betty said, “If you’re going to be a good trustee, you’ve got to go through this and get a feel for what it’s like.” And one of the requirements is that the group has to accept you. So, I did and the group accepted me and it was an eye-opener to me, a revelation.
Smith: In what way?
Jenkins: Well, I think one of the things, for instance, was an assignment that they had to write a letter to the person that they thought was either the one they loved the most or they felt was a causative factor in them being there. And then they’d sit there with the counselor in a roundtable atmosphere and read these letters. There’s not a dry eye in the house. There was a celebrity patient in my group, and I won’t mention the name for obvious reasons, and, boy, it just tore you up. It was a football player and he sent a letter to his father, “Why didn’t you love me?”
Smith: Were the celebrities treated like everyone else by everyone else?
Jenkins: Well, first of all, there weren’t that many of them. And, yeah, they were treated like everybody else, maybe a little worse if anything, because, you know, they were a little more difficult to handle as you could well imagine.
Smith: Shame must be a part of the thing that must be overcome, I assume. The stigma, even now…
Jenkins: Oh yeah, and I’m sure that’s true in cancer, maybe to a lesser degree. That’s part of our civilization, I think, that you fight that stigma if you have one of these diseases.
Smith: You stop and think what she has accomplished, not just as First Lady. In many ways her influence is greater since leaving the White House. When you stop to think in terms of affecting ordinary people, families, actually live their lives, she’s had more impact than a lot of presidents.
Jenkins: Oh, you can take breast cancer, we haven’t even mentioned. And there’re some of our presidents that haven’t had that much effect, you’re right.
Smith: Is it really true that back then people just didn’t talk about it?
Jenkins: Oh no, they didn’t talk about it. They always had an uncle that was upstairs and nobody… I’ll tell you a cute story. We were at a dinner party, this certain fellow who had been a US ambassador to a foreign country was talking about his adult life and he had a raging affair with County Smirnoff(?). And he said, “I lived in Colorado for awhile, but” he said, “the altitude began to get to my liver.”
Smith: Did you ever see them in Vail?
Jenkins: I played in the tournament.
Smith: Oh, you did?
Jenkins: I played one time with Weiskopf and the fellow from Golf Digest and then the great Celtic basketball player John…
Jenkins: Havlicek. And John had just taken up golf. But you know what, when it got down to a twelve foot putt we had to have, John made it. And it didn’t surprise any of us either. Talk about a competitor. But it was a wonderful tournament. We had a lot of fun. They had a show afterwards that Bob would always come up and do.
Smith: And the house in Vail, were you in the house?
Smith: Describe that.
Jenkins: Well, it would fit in Architectural Digest, it was a beautiful home up in the pine trees there. Pretty special.
Smith: You’ve heard about the parties out there, I guess there was a deck? There were parties outside?
Smith: With a view, I assume.
Jenkins: Oh, you looked down over the valley. They loved it up there. That was a big part of their life. When they came here, they definitely built a relationship with that community as well.
Smith: They were, I guess, as active in events there and causes as they were here.
Smith: You know, in the last few years, their friends all urged them not to go to Vail.
Jenkins: Yes. Well, the doctors, yeah.
Smith: A number of people urged them not to go.
Jenkins: Well, you know, Jimmy Greenbaum tried to talk them out of it and he lived there right next to them. And they said, “No, it’s a big part of our lives and we understand the risk we’re taking and we still want to go.” It was a lovely place, nice parlay, here and there.
Smith: One last thing. If you were telling something to people who didn’t know him, who never knew him, or only as a name in a history book or an old grainy film clip, what should people know about Gerald Ford?
Jenkins: Well, you know, the thing I think he probably was most proud of in the long run was his ability to rally the country after the Nixon debacle. And it cost him the presidency without a shadow of a doubt and I think Jerry Ford always knew that and he took that stand.
Smith: Political courage, personal courage.
Jenkins: Yeah, courage would be a by-word.
Smith: That’s great.
When you saw him the last time, how long was that before…? Was it a few months or…do you have any idea?
Jenkins: I don’t have any idea. I think I would guess a little over a month, but it was in the spring.
Smith: When was the last time you saw Mrs. Ford?
Jenkins: At the funeral. I haven’t seen her since then.
Smith: One senses she’s still grieving.
Jenkins: Oh, I think so. They were really close. But, boy, she doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone for her career.
Smith: It is an extraordinary story. When you think of all the things she’s confronted and overcome. And really became the source of inspiration to so many people.
Jenkins: Absolutely. And, what do I long for? I long for our country to get the kind of relationship with Obama that they had with Tip O’Neill and Jerry. Tip O’Neill, boy, what a character.
Smith: Did you see them together?
Jenkins: Oh, yeah, they played golf in the Hope tournament several times and we would come over here when he was here and he was very fond of Tip. There was nothing false.
Smith: And they obviously were fond of each other.
Jenkins: Oh, yeah. And Tip would bring out a congressman named Marty Rousseau(?) a few times. I don’t know that he brought out anyone other than Marty on a regular basis.
Smith: Opposites attracting?
Jenkins: Yes. But Marty was an NBA caliber basketball player and younger.
Smith: He really hit it off well with younger people, didn’t he?
Jenkins: Oh, yeah, I think he did.
Smith: I almost sensed that they liked to have younger people around them, almost deliberately as a way of staying young.
Jenkins: I think they did, yeah. Now, Susan was the one they saw the most of. Jack was over on the coast and she went over there, I guess, this summer for awhile. We have a place over there, but we didn’t bother her. I just don’t know that I… I cry at stop signs.
Smith: Listen, thank you, very much. This has been great.
Jenkins: Oh, sure.