GERALD R. FORD: 1913-2006; 'He Was Everybody's Hero' President Ford Made an Indelible Mark on the First Coast. A Look Back at Some of the Places and People He Visited and the Experiences That Will Be Remembered for a Lifetime. FRAN KINNE Sharing a Laugh with Bob Hope

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Byline: JESSIE-LYNNE KERR

Fran Kinne received a Christmas card with a handwritten note from President Ford just a week ago.

"He was so dear and one of those rare individuals in that type of position who still wrote personal notes to old friends," Kinne, former president and chancellor emeritus of Jacksonville University, said Wednesday.

Kinne first got to know Ford when his son, Jack Ford, was a student at JU in the early 1970s when Kinne was chairwoman of the arts and music department.

"But my best acquaintance came through my friendship with Bob Hope. They were good friends."

Kinne, who visited Hope at his Palm Springs home often before his death, would also call on Ford, who lived about 20 miles away in Rancho Mirage. "The last time was three years ago," Kinne said, "just before Bob died."

One of her fondest memories was in March 1978 when the Tournament Players Championship organization asked Kinne if she could get Ford and Hope to come here to play golf.

According to Kinne, Ford had already been talking with Minerva Mason about hosting a fundraiser for his presidential library, so the two women flew out to California in a Mason jet to get them.

"What an experience! The flight took just three hours and 20 minutes and I started laughing in Rancho Mirage and never stopped until we landed in Jacksonville," Kinne said.

And it wasn't just Hope cracking the jokes, she said.

In April 1983 when JU presented Ford an honorary degree, Kinne said Hope couldn't make the event because he was booked to emcee the Academy Awards. "But Bob made a film full of kidding about Ford that we showed at the dinner," she said.

Kinne said Ford always made her think of composer Aaron Copland's Ode to the Common Man. …