Irvine Ford has spent his life supporting agriculture and his community by serving on farm organizations and the municipal and charitable bodies that support them. In a quiet way, he has measured up to the highest requirements of good citizenship.
He has been aptly described as "a productive and progressive farmer", best remembered and honoured for "his tireless community service with numerous organizations".
Mr. Ford was born in Orford Township on November 16th, 1908, the son of Jennie Jones and Dugal Ford. He attended S.S. 3 and 4, Duart for his elementary schooling, and completed Grade 10 at Rodney District High School.
He married Doris Walters in London on January 2nd, 1934. In the early part of a marriage that was to endure for almost 70 years, the Fords lived in a home on the farm of her parents, Austin and Josie Walters, east of Morpeth on Highway 3. Mr. Ford farmed in that area. During that time, he worked with Ernie Sinclair on Lot 8, North Middle Road, Orford Township.
By 1948, he and his wife were ready to buy a farm on Lot 14, South Middle Road, Orford Township.
Two years later, he became a member of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and quietly contributed to the Kent Federation's involvement in the metamorphosis farming experienced in the second half of the Twentieth Century. In 1955, he became a member of the Kent County Farm Safety Association, working for a cause that he felt was important to all farmers. He was President of the Association in 1958.
Mr. Ford became a member of the Highgate District Agricultural Society in 1952, and worked as conscientiously for that organization as for many others. He was its President in 1976 and 1977.
Mr. Ford's dedicated contributions to the Agricultural Society were recognized in 1992 when he was awarded the Agricultural Service Diploma, given annually by the Highgate Fair Board for exceptional service.
In 1965, Mr. Ford was elected to the Ontario Burley Tobacco Marketing Association Board of Directors, and served there for six years. From 1950-1980, he was a Funk's Seed Corn Dealer; a franchise since taken over by his son, Ralph.
In 1971, another busy year for Mr. Ford, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Orford Farmers' Co-operative; a farmer-owned feed manufacturer, grain elevator and fertilizer and seed outlet. He continued to serve, through subsequent elections for three-year terms, until he completed the mandatory maximum of nine years of service.
Education was always important to Mr. Ford, and in 1942, he started almost a quarter of a century of service to the Duart Public School, first as a trustee and from 1948-1950, as Secretary-Treasurer.
His East Kent area became a leader in the amalgamation of rural schools, and Mr. Ford inevitably became a member of the Orford Central School Board of Trustees in 1966. This Board was superseded in 1969 by The Kent County Board of Education.
Mr. Ford's interest in other aspects of Education was shown in his work with the Trustees' and Ratepayers' Association Public Speaking Contests, and he became a familiar figure to student speakers as he announced the winners in the competitions. He was Chairman of the Public Speaking group from 1951 – 1959.
Mr. Ford's conviction that good farming must be supported by good government found expression in his service as a member of Orford Municipal Council from 1951-1958, and as Reeve until 1962. In the latter capacity, he was a quiet, but persuasive member of Kent County Council and its Roads Committee.
Aware of changing times and the need for more recreational areas, Orford Township Council and then Reeve, Dr. Archie Macpherson, initiated the development of a mobile home and camping ground at the former Clearville Docks on Lake Erie. Mr. Ford quickly became involved as a member of the original committee looking into the feasibility of the project. He, Lyle Clark and others surveyed and started construction of trailer sites for this development. Clearville Park has become a popular holiday and summer spot for residents of Chatham-Kent and beyond. Mr. Ford was a member of this committee until 1975.
His interest in Health and Hospitals was demonstrated when he became a member in 1979 of the Board of Directors of the Four Counties Hospital in Newbury, serving residents of Kent, Lambton, Elgin and Middlesex Counties. This Hospital has had recent wider use by Kent residents who have been referred to visiting specialists there as the availability of family doctors and access to specialists have been reduced. Mr. Ford was a Director of the Hospital Board until 1992. As another expression of his interest in Health, he was the founding President of the Orford-Highgate Cancer Society when it was formed in 1969.
When Orford Township celebrated its Sesquicentennial in 1977 with parades, reunions, street dances and other events, Mr. Ford's interests in local history was reflected in his service as a member of the planning committee.
The Fords have three children: sons, Ralph Owen and Douglas William, and a daughter, Marion Isabel (Mrs. Eugene) Garrod, all of Highgate and area. There are six granddaughters, and 13 great grandchildren.
Friends, and the people who have been associated with him through a long and productive life, respect and honour him. One said, "He is not one to blow his own horn, but he is a hard worker at anything he does. He is a good man."