Memories of Morris H. Ford

By Art Jacobs, 5 June 2010

(A eulogy for Morris Ford spoken by Art Jacobs at the memorial service in Charlotte on Saturday, June 5th.)

There are a 1,000 other things I’d rather be doing right now.
This is a trip I did not want to make. But, I am not telling any of you anything that you don’t already feel.
Kathy, on my flight to Charlotte, I wrote out some notes on what I wanted to say so that I could collect my thoughts and be organized. (And heaven knows that Morris would want this to be organized!)
And now, I’m afraid that if I do not read them – if I do not use my notes as a crutch – to get me through this, my emotions will take over and not allow me to say what is in my heart.
One day, who knows when, I might be able to make some partial sense of what has happened. Right now, for the life of me, I cannot get my head around this tragedy.
All I know is this, like you, I have an aching space in my soul that will never be totally filled again.
We all have our unique memories of our time spent with Morris – times well-remembered, and certainly not to be forgotten.
All that I can do right now, for you Kathy, for Mary and Paige, for my brothers, for his colleagues at US Air, and for the rest of his friends, is to tell you what kind of special man and caring friend Morris was to me.
I think that first and last impressions of certain people, events, and paces are indelibly etched in our brains. That is the case for me with Morris. So, I would like to tell you about the very first, and, then the very last time I saw Morris Ford.
We met in 1973 when I was invited to pledge the Sigma Chi Fraternity at Embry-Riddle. Only a little over a year before that, I had been on my second tour flying attack missions over Vietnam and Laos, and managing to get wounded. By the time I got out of the hospital in Japan, out of the military, and finally back to school in Florida, a little “college fraternity hazing” seemed a very small consequence to me.
I had obviously not reckoned on meeting one Morris H. Ford!
As I approached the front door of the Sigma Chi house that Spring evening in Daytona Beach, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure to my left. Morris had come bounding out of his room with a big grin on his face. He walked right up to me, reached right out and shook my hand.
I could tell right away that he was proud of his very strong grip – he had this almost impish look in his eye, as if to say, “I’ll bet I can squeeze harder than you!”
Morris was the first brother I met at the house. I realized right then that Morris Ford was going to make this fraternity thing a meaningful “consequence” for me.
His enthusiasm, his swagger (oh, he had a swagger), his knowledge, his intensity, his confidence, and his penetrating gaze are an image I will always have of him.
I was inspired by this young man who cared so much about everything he did; school, flying, Sigma Chi, even his room was highly organized, and of course, his eventual decision and plan to join the Navy.
Morris was deadly serious about the studies and tasks that a pledge had to complete. He taught us about the brotherhood, but in every sentence you could hear him on another frequency: “Pledge, do you really want this? Are you prepared to work? Are you willing to dedicate yourself to becoming a brother in Sigma Chi?” He was both teacher and taskmaster – but all for the greater good.
Morris and I exchanged hundreds of emails over the last 10 years or so. Mostly they were about our politics, current events, and anything that had to do with veterans, patriotism, and military aircraft.
We were kindred spirits in our views, and I loved him all the more for his passionate opinions. (By the way, those opinions were always correct.)
The last time I saw Morris was just this past December in Philadelphia at the annual Army-Navy game – more than 37 years after that balmy evening in Daytona Beach!
A high school classmate of mine had made the military a career, and had been a West Point Professor before he retired in the 1990’s. He had sky-box seats to the “big game” – was I interested? (What a silly question.)
I knew that Paige was at West Point in her senior year and immediately emailed Morris on the chance that he would be attending. I was thrilled that we would meet up somehow in that huge crowd.
And, there he stood. Morris was wearing a United States Military Academy black fleece jacket with the dates of his daughters’ graduation years on his chest.
I watched in admiration – his arm around Paige and the utter, indescribable pride in his smile – that very same smile from all those years ago!
I had told Morris earlier in the year that the best testimony to success was not fame or riches, but in watching your children grow up with good values and to turn out well.
In my estimation, by that measure, Morris Ford was an incredible success as both a man, and as a father. I will never forget his beaming face from that moment with Paige and Kathy at his side. I truly envied his joy that day.
My chief regret now, is not having spent more time with him, the wonderful Morris I knew (and his family), after those years in school way back when.
I also regret that I was not there (that we were not there) – for him in his hour of unimaginable need.
If there is a silver lining to all of this, and I know that it is hard to find one, it’s the message or lesson that life can be so fragile, and sometimes, (certainly this time), way too short.
We all need to cherish our loved ones and our friends – and to tell them just that, and right to their faces. They are the most important things we can have after all. And, I’d like to think Morris would be telling us that right now if he could.
I saw two quotes recently that seem to fit the lesson that should come out of why we had to be gathered here today. They both remind me of Morris, and, in a way, I feel that they are a tribute to how he lived. They go like this:
1. “Live every day as if nothing was a miracle, yet live every day as if everything was a miracle.”
2. “You make a living by what you do. But, you make a life by what you give.”
(Of course, I specifically numbered those quotes in proper sequence, just as Morris would have expected me to do!)
Morris, you gave me much. You were a miracle in my life, and many others.  We were all made better by knowing you. I know that I was.
Mary, Paige – you know what lies before you: Duty, Honor, Country. You have experienced a profound loss. It may sound odd today, but I hope you will take some comfort in the responsibilities you have in leading young soldiers; to be an example to others on how to overcome tragedy with dignity.
You’ve taken a courageous path in your lives, and as a veteran, I thank you for your service. We all thank you. Just work hard to make your Dad proud. That way, you will always do well.
Kathy our hearts and prayers are with you.
Morris, I will sorely miss you.
Goodbye, my brother.
Farewell, my friend.

One Response to “Memories of Morris H. Ford”

  1. Tom Ford says:

    I can only speek from the heart, as my emotions are resting on my shirt sleeve and subject to shaking and wiping many tears.
    The memories and heart felt sadness can never replace the years of eye to eye contact with Morris. Never in a million heart beats can this loss be understood.
    Your prayers and support are overwelming and represent the ture man that he was.
    Thank you all, our family is still is shock and trying to cope, but please remember Kathy, Mary and Peige are with us now. Support and nuture them in a special way, hold them close with cards, phone calls and your prayers.
    “Big Brother Tommy”