Richard Edwin Ford, 75, who devoted much of his life to volunteerism and philanthropic endeavors, died April 16 in Naples, Fla., where he was visiting friends. The fourth-generation of a pioneer Wabash, Ind., family, he lived most of his life in the family home at 540 North Wabash.
Ford’s relationship with Culver spanned eight decades. He was a Woodcraft camper in the late 1940s and served on the Culver Summer Schools and Camps Alumni Association Board from 1993 through 2001, then The Culver Educational Foundation Board of Trustees from 2006 until 2012. He also was a member of the Culver Academies’ Fine Arts Advisory Committee. His family has had a home on Lake Maxinkuckee for nearly 90 years.
His charitable work at Culver included providing the lead contribution to establish the Alexander D. Nagy Faculty Intern Program. He also contributed to the preservation efforts of Culver’s many historical documents and photographs. Ford also supported the annual Global Pathways Spring trip to Mexico at the Academies, and the renovation of the Coolman Arts and Crafts Center and camper cabins in Woodcraft Camp.
Ford graduated from Wabash High School in 1956 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. He joined the family firm, The Ford Meter Box, Inc., as a salesman in the East. He was lived in Washington, D.C., where he eventually worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and for a not-for-profit organization until 1980.
At that time he returned to Wabash and took up a number of civic causes involving the arts, historic preservation, and the humanities. His efforts in these fields were local, national, and international in scope. After his return home, he chaired the Ford Meter Box Foundation and was for many years a member of the board of directors of the Ford Meter Box Company.
Mr. Ford’s growing interest in historic preservation took him to various towns and cities in the United States and Europe where he saw preservation efforts at work. He became involved in projects to save the city of Venice, Italy, from flooding and he was on the board of directors of the American Museum in Britain. In America, he served as president of the Council of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
He was a life member of the Honeywell Foundation, where his father, Wilbur Ford, was president for many years. The Olivette Room and the Tower Room were among his projects at the Honeywell Center.
Mr. Ford was a major force behind the creation of The Wabash County Historical Museum. At the same time the new museum project was underway, he was also developing the Dr. James Ford Historic Home on West Hill Street. Dr. Ford, Richard’s great-grandfather, lived and practiced medicine in the home that is now a small museum.
He was a past member of the Honeywell House board where he took an interest in programming and in maintaining the house to the late Eugenia Honeywell’s strict standards.
The major project of Mr. Ford’s later years was the restoration of the Hotel Indiana, which he renamed the Charley Creek Inn. He created a charming small hotel with a dining room and lounge in downtown Wabash. He was pleased with the role that Charley Creek Inn has played in the revitalization of the downtown area.
His interest in history and historic preservation was matched only by his interest in music. He was on the board of directors of the Wabash Valley Music Association, and had served as its president. He was a board member of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and of the National Council of the Metropolitan Opera. For several years he served as director of the Metropolitan’s Indiana regional auditions.
It was his interest in music that provided him with strong ties to Indiana University after he graduated. He supported many causes at the Jacobs School of Music on the Bloomington campus.
He developed an interest in cabaret music and in the popular music segment known as The Great American Songbook, and he was particularly fond of the music of Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael.
Mr. Ford was the recipient of awards from many organizations, but none pleased him more than those from Indiana groups. Among those were the 1998 Distinguished Citizen award from the Wabash Chamber of Commerce, the 2004 Indiana Living Legends award from the Indiana Historical Society, and the 2009 “Spirit of the Prairie” award from Conner Prairie. Indiana Landmarks honored him with the Cook Cup for his preservation efforts in restoring what is now Charley Creek Inn. Manchester College (now Manchester University) granted him the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters in 2005.
Mr. Ford also served on the boards of the Heartland Film Festival, Dance Kaleidoscope, the Indianapolis Opera Company, the Hoosier Salon, the Indiana State Historical Society, and the Indianapolis International Violin Competition. Two governors named him a Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor the governor can bestow on an Indiana citizen.
He is survived by nephews, Steven (Lisa) Ford, Daniel (Tammy) Ford, and Mark (Amy) Ford, and by Marilyn Ford, a sister-in-law, all of Wabash. His parents, two brothers and a sister preceded him in death.
Memorial services are planned for a later time. Arrangements are being handled by Grandstaff-Hentgen Funeral Service , 1241 Manchester Ave., Wabash, Ind.
The original obituary appeared in The Indianapolis Star on April 18.