By Ernestine Franco
On June 15, at 12:57 p.m., Jim Ford’s Facebook post said, “The journey continues. I’m off to Good Shepherd Hospice later today.” Just three days later, Sound Beach lost one of its best and brightest lights.
James Francis Ford was born in the Bronx on Dec. 3, 1947. He attended William Howard Taft High School and in 1967 he enlisted in the Air Force, where he was a mechanic and worked maintaining airplane while stationed in Charleston, South Carolina. Ford and his wife, Nancy, initially moved to Bayport. Again on Dec. 3, but in 1976, they moved to Sound Beach.
In Bayport, Ford served in the fire department as lieutenant of the Hook and Ladder Company, so when his family moved to Sound Beach, it was only fitting he’d join the Sound Beach Fire Department. There he became a lieutenant and made his way up the ladder to attain the rank of captain of Engine Company 1, a position he was very proud to hold. Over the years he held many positions in the department, including lieutenant and captain of the Fire Police Squad, president of the department for five years. He served on numerous committees, and was a life member of the department as well as president of the benevolent fund.
For the past 10 years, Ford could no longer be a responding member of the department. “While in and out of hospitals,” his good friend and ex-Chief Bob Pulick said, “being on the inactive list didn’t stop Jim from still being of service.” In fact, Pulick said, “he was single-handedly responsible for about 75 percent of all the funds the department received each year.”
Ford’s commitment to the community was not only through the fire department. He was also very active in his church, St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, where he was a Eucharistic minister and an usher. He also coordinated baptisms with his wife.
A valued member of the Sound Beach Civic Association, Jim is remembered fondly by the Civic president Bea Ruberto.
“In April, the Civic held a Vets Memorial lasagna dinner fundraiser.” Ruberto said. “Because of his health issues, Jim couldn’t eat the lasagna, but he bought a ticket, then brought his own dinner, because he wanted to show support for our vets.”
What will be remembered by most people, though, is not just all that he did, but who he was. Patty Pulick, a lifelong friend, remembers meeting the couple nearly 40 years ago.
“He had a great smile and laugh, and was always thinking of everyone else before himself, many times taking me to physical therapy whenever I needed a ride,” she said of Ford. “If I called their home wanting to speak to Nancy and Jim answered, he always said, ‘Hey you’ and I would laugh. He was a wonderful guy and I still can’t believe he is no longer with us.”
The Pulicks and the Fords enjoyed a special bond as parents. Katie and Danny Ford and Kim Pulick came from the same adoption agency in Korea — Katie and Kim within days of each other.
“I will miss our birthday lunches at such gourmet restaurants as Wendy’s, McDonald’s or George’s Kitchen,” Bob Pulick said.
Ford was very proud of his daughter Katie, who was a member of the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard. When he was already at Good Shepherd, Air Force officers came to his bedside to officially promote his daughter, a veteran of two tours in Iraq, to technical sergeant. With that promotion, Katie now outranked her father, to which Ford answered, “If I could get out of bed, I would salute you.”
Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) also fondly remembers Ford.
“I think I have one word that describes him,” Bonner said. “He was a gentleman. He was a warm, kind and funny person, with an upbeat attitude right to the end. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone.” Bonner said she will miss getting a hug from him, something he did every time they saw each other.
Jim and Nancy Ford celebrated their 45th anniversary on May 22. Both very caring and loving people, they were well known for their humor. They had fun together. Nancy remembers her husband being called “the mayor of the fire department and the mayor of their block,” and Nancy said she now knows he is the “mayor in heaven.”
Jim was the beloved husband of Nancy; loving father of Maureen Chorma (Timothy), Kathleen and Daniel; adored grandfather of Andrew and Colin; and dear brother of Michael Ford, Mary Walsh and Kenneth Ford. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach. Internment followed in Calverton National Cemetery. Donations may be made in his name to Good Shepherd Hospice, Hope House Ministries or the Grumman Memorial Park.