James O. Ford passed away peacefully after a brave battle with Alzheimer’s Disease on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, at the age of 73. Born in Detroit, Michigan, in July of 1944, he was the son of the late Dona P. Ford and Oliver T. Ford.
He is survived by his wife, Catharine Rothermel Ford, formerly of Reading Pennsylvania, with whom he had just celebrated 51 years of marriage, two daughters Rachelle Ford (Mike Arelline), and Megan (Mike) Palanski, one son Daniel (Elizabeth) Ford, one sister Joyce (Larry) Book and many nieces and nephews. He was so pleased to be papa to grandchildren Cate, Cora, Maryn, and Eddie Palanski, and Charlie, Anderson, and Bennett Ford.
Raised in central Pennsylvania, Jim graduated from Saltillo High School. He attended Penn State University where he met his future wife, Cathy, in the Penn State Singers. He earned a Music Education Degree in 1966 and began his teaching career in Tyrone, Pennsylvania and soon after married.
Jim continued his career as a music educator in the Finger Lakes region of New York where he served as Choral Director of Canandaigua Senior Academy, Canandaigua, New York. For 35 years, Jim loved teaching his high school students, with a steadfast commitment to music education and choral performances. His passion for exposing students to music was not only evident inside the classroom but extended beyond through annual trips to New York City and Toronto to experience Broadway musicals and shows. He also hosted New York State School Music Association Solo Festivals at Canandaigua Academy for many years. Friends, colleagues, and former students recall the times he encouraged, supported, and ignited a passion for music in them. Jim’s impact spanned more than the classroom as he spent summers teaching Driver’s Education and offering his services as a piano tuner, known both for his meticulous skills, but also for leaving a lasting impression of friendship with his customers.
Jim was a member throughout his lifetime of various professional and philanthropic organizations. He was always an active member of his church, and enjoyed many years as a volunteer at Sonnenberg Gardens, serving on the board of directors and as a tour guide attracting large crowds who relished in his personality and storytelling skills.
He was equally generous with his time and resources and helped individuals and organizations locally. As an active member of the Rotary Club, he lived the motto “Service Above Self” serving the Canandaigua community in innumerable ways. In his later years, Jim’s passion was serving those in need at The Storehouse at Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester, New York, once going so far as to give his own belt to a client in need when one wasn’t available.
Music remained a powerful force in his life even after he retired from music education. He thrived singing alongside his wife and other talented musicians weekly in the Asbury Singers. A true patron of the arts, he and Cathy supported and enjoyed various cultural institutions including The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Geva Theatre Center and others. He unwaveringly supported his wife and children in their own creative and professional endeavors and was indescribably proud of their work and interests.
Jim’s legacy of being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, a life-long learner, a hard worker, and a kind soul will certainly live on in his children and grandchildren. He especially will be missed when sharing a cup of fine coffee, a glass of good wine or laughing over a witty comeback and clever punchline. Jim’s life can be celebrated when encountering a Norman Rockwell piece of art, boating on a lake with family and friends or even enjoying the simple pleasures of watching The Price Is Right onTV.
His family would like to express their deepest gratitude to his gifted caregivers at Tore’s Home in East Flat Rock, North Carolina, for deeply loving and caring for him with the utmost dignity and respect until his very last breath.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, September 2, 2018, at 2:00pm, at the First United Methodist Church, 100 N. Main Street, Canandaigua, New York.
In lieu of flowers, please consider an act of service or volunteerism of your choice in Jim’s memory. Donations may be made to The Storehouse at Asbury First United Methodist Church, 1050 East Ave., Rochester, New York 14607 or to the Fort Hill Performing Arts Center Canandaigua and be sent to 20 Fort Hill Avenue, Canandaigua, New York 14424 or at www.fhpacc.org. Please note: In Memory of James O. Ford