The death of former President Gerald Ford had brought back fond memories for an Iowa teacher who had a chance meeting with Ford. Dennis Fett of Minden was a life skills teaching specialist with the Area Education Agency in Council Bluffs and worked with an at-risk children’s agency know as Christian Home in 1984.
Fett says the students were invited to be the welcome group and meet former President Ford through a connection with Jim Ross Lightfoot who was running for Congress. Ford visiting Iowa to speak at a fundraiser for Lightfoot in Council Bluffs. Fett says it was a scramble to get ready to meet the President.
Fett says they stood out and prepared the kids to talk to the president and waited for the president to show up. Fett says they expected tons of cars, but there was just a limousine and a few police cars, and Ford got out and talked to them. Fett got to shake hands with Ford. Fett says Ford was an “interesting gentleman” and showed a real interest in the children even though he was running late.
Fett says his own interaction with Ford was quick as the former president said, ?Hi, I am Gerald Ford’, and uh, nice to meet you, and I said ‘I’m Dennis Fett nice to meet you Mr. President,’ and pretty much that was it.” Fett says it was the first president he had ever met and Ford seemed like a normal guy. Fett says he’s six-foot one and Ford seemed about his size, but says Ford had presence about him.
Fett says the visit by Ford made an impression on the 12 to 16-year-old kids who were trying to get beyond some troubles in their life. Fett says he thinks the visit really made an impression on the kids and “maybe some of them turned out pretty decent, I’m sure they did.”
Fett is a photographer and had been shooting photos for a book on peacocks that he raises, so he only had a few photos left in his camera. Fett gave the camera to another teacher to snap off the last shots. He says those black-and-white photos brought back warm memories after he heard that Ford had died.
Fett says the visit by Ford wasn’t a “Quick politician moves.” He says Ford really cared about the kids and says it seems he wasn’t in a big hurry to get off to the fundraiser. Fett says it’s the same impression you get from Ford by reading accounts in the media of Ford after his death.
The campaign stop endorsement by the former president helped Lightfoot win the southwest Iowa seat in Congress in the November election. Fett now teaches elementary music at the Boyer Valley Elementary School in Dows.