Speaking at the final service before Ford was buried at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., Rumsfeld recalled a "special" leader who came on the scene "in a dark and dangerous hour for our nation" and took advice from Democrats and Republicans alike in the early days of his presidency.
Rumsfeld said Ford was one of the few congressmen who looked into the mirror and did not see a future president. In fact, he had to be persuaded to run for Republican minority leader in the early 1960s.
"He was a patriot who knew freedom is precious and comes at a cost," Rumsfeld said, adding, "Like all great leaders, he knew victory and he knew loss."
Rumsfeld said Ford was not bitter about his 1976 re-election defeat.
"Instead he remembered cloudy skies on the first day he entered the White House. On the last day, the sun was shining brightly" and he felt good about that.
Rumsfeld revealed a new carrier has been commissioned to bear Ford's name. He said he brought the former president a cap several months ago emblazoned with "USS Gerald R. Ford," even though a formal announcement is months off.