January 9, 2007
tells of golfing with president
DKE fraternity brothers awed by breadth of background check on President
Scott N. Millers
COUNTY - The stories have come over the phone, via
e-mail and walking into the office with their
The people live in Vail and Beaver Creek, Edwards
and Eagle, but all responded to a call for their
memories of President Gerald Ford and his time in
the Vail Valley. Virtually everyone remembered the
former president and his family fondly.
Here then, are some shared memories of the Fords.
In 1968 and 1969 Vail was a great deal smaller
than it is today.
One day on Bridge Street, gravel at that time, Larry Burdick, the owner of
the Red Lion, George Knox, editor and publisher of the Vail Trail, and I
were discussing our college/fraternity days.
As it turned out, we were all fraternity brothers, belonging to Delta
Kappa Epsilon, although at separate schools: Larry Burdick at Michigan,
the Skipper at Wisconsin and I at Yale. This fraternity can now proudly
say that it has produced five U.S. presidents, quite an accomplishment.
As our Bridge Street conversation proceeded we decided to hold an annual
Deke reunion, just the three of us at first with our wives. Then one of us
mentioned that Gerald Ford, then House minority leader, had also been a
Deke at Michigan. Naturally, we included Ford in our mix.
We rounded out the group with several Denver/Vail locals who were either
invested in Vail or who spent a great deal of time here. The first annual
dinner consisted of nine couples, Gerald Ford among them, and it was every
bit as much fun as the three of us had anticipated.
Several years later, much to our surprise, as well as the surprise of the
House minority leader, Gerald Ford had become president of the United
States. Not one to look down his nose at his fraternity brothers, the Deke
tradition continued, although now accompanied by what seemed to be a
battalion of Secret Service, as well as some additional Dekes who
naturally came out of the woodwork since word of the president's
attendance leaked out.
While there are many stories that I recall from those Deke dinners, always
held at the Red Lion, the most poignant was told by President Ford at our
dinner in 1973.
The president, himself, in his typically modest fashion, acknowledged that
he had no idea how he would perform in the starring role which fate had
provided him, but that he could assure all of us of his honesty. To back
that up he informed us that, due to the Watergate scandal and the general
unease of the American public, the FBI had spent 300 man years
investigating his background and found it without a notable flaw.
Each of us looked at the other and muttered something to the effect of
"better him than me." The concept of having my past gone over
with an FBI fine tooth comb to the tune of 300 man years was a specter
that I didn't even want to consider.
The president proved true to his word and none of us ever expected