EASTON — A Green Bay Packers fan who quoted Shakespeare and loved dancing with his wife, John Ford is being remembered for his honesty, integrity and kindness.
Ford, 67, died Tuesday morning, Feb. 4. The Easton Town Council president was hospitalized in November 2019 following a stroke.
He is survived by his wife Peggy, and their son Ben and daughter-in-law Kate.
“Earlier this morning we received the sad news that John Ford, long-term council president and member of various town commissions, passed away,” Easton Mayor Robert Willey issued in a statement on behalf of himself and the council. “We are mourning this loss as John was instrumental in many aspects of this community.”
Ford retired from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in June 2019 after 29 years of service at the non-profit organization. He joined CBMM in 1990 as director of operations.
Friends, colleagues and residents are mourning the passing of Ford, who touched the lives of many.
Talbot County Council Member Pete Lesher worked with Ford at CBMM and recalled Ford’s unique leadership skills.
“He was a manager when I came on straight out of grad school and wet behind the ears,” Lesher said. “He coached me and provided a compassionate model of supervising people.”
Lesher said Ford’s methods came down to three basic principles: “He thought everybody deserved respect, deserved to be heard and deserved to be given straight messages.”
Bill Gilmore, former vice president of facilities management for CBMM, said Ford was a man of integrity and honesty who would never say no to any requests.
“He did everything to make a difference, whether it was midnight or one o’clock at night or three o’clock in the afternoon,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore said they had a joking relationship when it came to their favorite sports teams.
“We talked many times about my team, the New England Patriots, and the Green Bay Packers,” he said. “It was a fun, sportsmanship contention. We’d talk about Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and everything that was going on.”
Rich Scofield worked with Ford at CBMM for nearly 30 years. He said Ford brought special skills to the organization.
“He did things right, and he was willing to take the museum to task when he thought it was straying in the wrong direction. It was a unique thing and a difficult thing to do,” Scofield said. “He was extremely important to that organization and the Town of Easton. His integrity, his honesty, his ability to listen and to make a measured decision — those are rare qualities.”
Scofield recalled how Ford would use his skills whenever he approached him with a problem.
“He’d listen carefully, then there would be about a thirty second pause and then he’d have his answer. A very measured, very unemotional and very right answer,” Scofield said.
“It is a huge loss. He was an amazing man,” Scofield said.
Lesher also served with Ford on the town council for several years. He remembered Ford’s desire to ensure everyone had the opportunity to be heard during meetings.
“He would always err on the side of hearing people out,” Lesher said. “He would never cut people off in public testimony.”
Ron Engle, acting president of the town council, said Ford had a unique ability to encourage cooperation and compromise.
“We’ve had a council with a fairly wide spectrum of ideas,” Engle said. “We would all come in with multiple views on an issue, yet come to a conclusion where everybody walked out feeling like they gained something.”
Ford was also deeply invested in the local community. He helped to revitalize the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival at CBMM.
“Even when he moved out of the role, he still hung on to that event,” Lesher said. “He wanted to continue with it because he loved the people. He loved the family atmosphere and the participants of the event.”
Ford was also president of the board of directors of the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center and the president of Historic Cemeteries of Easton, Inc.
“Very sad news for our community. John was a champion for all and a big part of the family at the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, where he proudly served as our board president.” ChesMRC posted to their Facebook page. “We will miss you John and thank you for all the good you brought to the world.”
Ford also served as president of the Chesapeake Forum, an Academy for Lifelong Learning. According to their website, he had been with the forum since its creation in 1999. Ford wasn’t just involved on the administrative side, he also taught classes in literature.
Lesher said Ford always served as the forum’s secretary during meetings and recalled Ford’s sense of humor that was evident in his notes.
“He always took the minutes. He would capture the substance, but he would always throw in a little turn of phrase or something,” Lesher said. “Who likes to read minutes, right? Everyone loved to read John Ford’s minutes.”
Community members reacted on Facebook to the news of Ford’s death, with people remembering him and offering support for his family.
“Really sorry. He was one of the ‘good guys,’” one commenter wrote.
“Heartbreaking. A sad day for the entire town of Easton. Hugs and prayers for the Ford family,” posted another.
“The loss of a true gentleman and friend to all,” wrote a commenter. “Prayers to Peggy and the entire family.”
“The prayers and sympathies of the entire town and surrounding area are with John’s family,” Willey said in his statement. “We request that all are respectful of their privacy and grieving over the next few days.”