Richard Edwin Ford, who devoted much of his life to volunteerism and philanthropic endeavors, died Wednesday, April 16, in Naples, Fla., where he was visiting friends. The fourth-generation of a pioneer Wabash family, Mr. Ford was born on Feb. 27, 1939, to Wilbur and Florence (Jeup) Ford. He lived most of his life in the family home at 540 North Wabash.
Mr. Ford graduated from Wabash High School with the Class of 1956 and attended Indiana University, where he was a member of Acacia fraternity. Upon graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree in business, he joined the family firm, The Ford Meter Box, Inc., as a salesman in the East.
He was living then in Washington, D.C., where he eventually worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and for a not-for-profit organization until he returned to Wabash in 1980. It was at that time that he 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.
In Wabash, he established the Charley Creek Foundation, an organization, which created the Charley Creek Gardens on North Miami Street and sponsors the Charley Creek Artsfest, an annual event featuring art exhibits, art sales and music performances. The Foundation is home to the Wabass Institute; the world’s first workshop devoted to players of the double bass string instrument. Instructors and students gather each year in Wabash to study and to perform.
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 36 East Market. 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. Over the years, he was quietly responsible for bringing talented musicians to Wabash. 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 was past president of the American Pianists Association. He was on the board of Heartland Film Festival, Dance Kaleidoscope and the Indianapolis Opera Company. He sat on the boards of the Hoosier Salon, the Indiana State Historical Society, and the Indianapolis International Violin Competition. Two governors named him a Sagamore of the Wabash.
Mr. Ford’s club and organization affiliations were numerous. In Wabash, he belonged to the Kiwanis Club, the Wabash Chamber of Commerce, and more than three dozen other local organizations. He was a member of the First Methodist Church.
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 Avenue, Wabash, Indiana, 46992.