John Edwin Ford, 93, of Cadiz, passed away on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Harrison Community Hospital after a brief illness. Born January 10, 1922, in Doddridge County, W.Va., to Lily Gay (Conwell) and John Samuel Ford, John Edwin, along with his four brothers and five sisters, he spent his youth on the family farm tending crops, hunting squirrel, and digging out groundhogs in mountainous West Virginia. Entertainment there and then was homespun and family centered; so, at a young age, John (known to his family as “Icky”) taught himself to play the fiddle, sing, and dance.
At the age of fourteen he won a local talent contest winning his mother a half-barrel of “Pure as Snow” flour – a significant contribution to the family larder. A member of the West Virginia National Guard’s Calvary, John was honorably discharged in 1941 and relocated to the Baltimore shipyards where he and his fellow patriot workers constructed over 1900 liberty ships in support of the nation’s war effort. In 1944, John actively courted and married the lovely Bettie June Benedum of Salem, W.Va., and they moved to Pennsylvania.
After welding in heavy industry and the steel mills, John took a job with Hanna Coal in Ohio. He and Bettie moved permanently to Cadiz in 1949 where they raised two boys and a girl. Supporting a family during the post-war years was not an easy task. Drawing upon his mountain childhood skills John Edwin regularly graced his family’s table with wild game. Tired of skinning bunnies, he took up competitive rifle marksmanship and brought home the bacon – literally the bacon – as well as hams, turkeys, and assorted canned goods. His children eagerly awaited his return.
Once the children were old enough to embarrass, “Icky” and Bettie created a satirical hillbilly comedy routine and went “on the road” entertaining at local festivals and community gatherings. With John strumming the guitar in his Sunday go-to-meet’n bibs and stammering out the vocals, Bettie, front teeth blackened out and attired in tattered gingham, would deliver one-line zingers on a variety of topics. Audiences eagerly attended the performances; yet, the local sophisticates were never quite sure if they were witnessing comedic genius or the fall of western civilization. The children hid in the car. Having helped build the giant stripping shovels (the Mountaineer, Silver Spade, and Gem of Egypt), John retired from Consol in 1985 and began a second career teaching the violin and playing guitar with Roger’s Orchestra. He lost Bettie to lung cancer in 1995 and their youngest child John Grover Ford (Dawn (John) Alkire Ford-Cramer) to heart disease in 2001.
John is survived by a younger brother, Ora Edgar Ford and his wife Mary Jane (Currey) of Davis, W.Va.; a son, Rodney Lynn Ford and daughter-in-law Jeanne (McAllister) of Hopedale; a daughter, Karen Kay Dowdell and son-in-law James of Adena; four grandchildren: Erika (Eric) Whiting of Beavercreek; Kelli Dowdell of Muncie, Ind.; Jessica (Jose) Ford-Mustre of Kansas City, Mo.; Kristi Nicole Ford of Columbus; four great grandchildren, Brandy Gardner, Brock Gardner, Alex Whiting and Piper Mustre Ford; along with many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A member of the Big Battle (W.Va.) Baptist Church, the United Mine Workers of America local 7690, and the Harrison Lodge #219 F&AM, John Edwin will rest beside his youngest son, John Grover, in Long View Cemetery. A private memorial service will be held at the convenience of his family. John Edwin’s family would like to thank the Harrison County Home for the kindness and care afforded to him during the past year and the Harrison Community Hospital for the special attention they provided during his final hours. Memorial contributions can be made to the Harrison County Home, 41500 Cadiz Dennison Road, Cadiz, Ohio 43907. The family is being assisted by Clark-Kirkland Funeral Home, Cadiz. Online condolences may be made at www.clark-kirkland.com.
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