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Life Story / Obituary
Ralph Ford was kind, compassionate, and generous with a desire to make the world around him a better place. He found peace and his greatest joy while out fishing, and this was only made better when he was fishing with the ones he loved. Ralph was a devoted husband and father who was blessed to witness his family grow to include grandchildren later in life. A longtime resident of the community he loved, he was always looking for ways to keep busy. Hardworking and committed to whatever task was at hand, Ralph accomplished great things throughout his life. He leaves behind a colorful mosaic of memories that his friends and loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
During the first half of the 1940s, the eyes of our nation were focused overseas as countless young servicemen and women were deeply enriched in the throes of WWII. Those who remained stateside awaited the latest news from the front lines while rationing on common goods like paper, rubber, coffee, and sugar was a way of life. Amidst this eventful time was the year 1943 that was filled with great joy for Gaylan and Margaret (Brown) Ford as they announced the birth of the baby boy they named Ralph H. on May 22, 1943, in Joliet, Illinois. The youngest of three Ford children, he was the little brother to Carol and Marilyn.
Raised primarily in Paw Paw, Ralph was a typical young boy of his generation. He loved fishing while growing up, which remained something he loved for the rest of his life. Many memories were made swimming and canoeing as a young family. He had a motorcycle and would often give Carol a ride to work. A student at Paw Paw Schools, he participated in track and played the drums. Ralph went on to graduate from Paw Paw High School in 1961.
Big changes were in store for Ralph as a young man. He spent a few years working at Allis Bros, but he then enlisted in the United States Air Force. Ralph was a mechanic and weapon installer throughout his four years of service. He spent one year in Vietnam and was otherwise stationed in New Mexico. He received number of metals during his service. In 1968, Ralph married Mary Ann Mulrenin. They were married for several years and together they had a son, Glen in 1971, then later divorced. During this time he also owned his first Tastee Freez in Paw Paw.
Ralph married Susan Hawthorne on September 25, 1978, in Grand Ledge at the local justice of the peace. They owned the Tastee Freeze in Grand Ledge together. He had a passion for travel and made countless trips with buddies out west hunting and fishing. In everything they did, Ralph and his wife were a true team as they were hand in hand in their various ventures. Having spent most of their married life in White Pigeon, they owned the Tastee Freeze there, and they also had a drive-thru liquor store in Sturgis. Together, Ralph and Suse owned three restaurants but their greatest accomplishment was by far Lakeside Loft in Sturgis. These business ventures resulted in many life-long friendships and some of the best memories.
Not only were Ralph and his wife partners in business, they were also partners in their love for fishing. They were both avid fisherman who were members of the Battle Creek Steelheaders. Ralph was also just as happy to drive the boat while others fished. Over the years they spent countless hours fishing, and they also owned several different fishing boats as he was forever buying and selling them. Ralph took many people out fishing, and it has been said that he could catch any fish as he took part in numerous tournaments over the years. He frequently took his kids fishing as every weekend Ralph was out on Lake Michigan. He also fished on the river when it was colder. Ralph and Suse did travel out West, but they generally spent the summers on Lake Michigan fishing. They also fished on Lake Erie at times.
About eight years ago, Ralph retired. This gave him more time for pursuing his love for fishing as well as his other hobbies. They still had some rental homes, he worked part-time at the Three Rivers Hospital in food service. Ralph always liked building things with wood and was willing to try anything. He could often be found out tinkering on the boat, and during his younger years he was willing to try to fix anything. Ralph once built a canoe in the basement, although it has been said that whatever he was building it wasn’t always the straightest. Ralph was a good cook, and he usually cooked at the restaurants he owned. Not surprisingly, he was also a master of cleaning fish, a skill he enjoyed sharing with others. Ralph was famous for telling stories, although they usually involved hunting and fishing. Always busy, he liked reading magazines and watching shows that were the unsolved mystery type. Ralph especially loved Christmas since for years he dressed up as Santa and passed out presents to friends and other random people in the community. He loved shopping for gag gifts as well as being on the receiving end of these kinds of gifts. He always appreciated a good joke, even if it was on him.
All who knew Ralph Ford would agree that he was one of the most fun-loving and generous people around. Ralph was a bit of a pushover where his kids were involved as they could talk him into anything! Selfless, he would give the shirt off his back to someone in need. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
Ralph H. Ford, of White Pigeon died unexpectedly April 10, 2018, in St. Joseph. Ralph’s family includes his wife, Susan Ford; 2 children: Glen Ford (Danielle Dragan) and Megan (Jesse) Ogden; 3 grandchildren: Kaley Ford, Cameron Ford and Sydney Ogden; 2 siblings: Carol (Joe) Ward and Marilyn Davies; and many nieces and nephews. Ralph was preceded in death by his parents and by a brother-in-law, Paul Davies. Cremation will take place. Services will be held at 11 AM on Saturday (April 21, 2018) at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M-40, Paw Paw (269) 657-3870. Following the service, friends and family can visit while sharing food and refreshments at the funeral home. Please visit Ralph’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Battle Creek Steelheaders.