Do you remember: Albert and Elila Ford

By Richard Karns

Special to the Herald Review

I met Ruth Ford and her son, Roger, at the Seven-Slot Grill and asked if I could do an article about her family. She said that she was from Grand Rapids, so not too many would know her family, but would be glad if I wrote one about her husband’s family.

Ruth is 94 years old, and was a delight to talk to. In 1922, the Rev. Alva and Blanch Eastman family lived in Gagetown in the thumb area of Michigan. The family traveled to Grand Rapids at that time so Ruth could be delivered by Dr. M.G. Bassett, her grandfather. Her other siblings were Faythe, Rhea, John and James.

One of the things about being a minister’s daughter was the moving about every three years or so. Ruth said, “I was able to meet a lot of people, but it was difficult to make long lasting friends.” She told me that until they moved to Reed City, there were some meager times. Being raised during the depression, and because her father wasn’t paid very much, many of his parishioners would bring in food — most of which was chicken. “Every Sunday it seemed we would have chicken.”

Her father didn’t own a car when he pastured the churches at Bay City (served there twice), Muskegon and in Durand. Rhea died while in Durand at the age of 8. Ruth’s father was able to purchased a car just before coming to Reed City.

Ruth’s father was a pastor of the Church of the Nazarene on Slosson Avenue in Reed City from 1935 to 1938. The church then was across the street from McDowell’s Funeral Home. They lived in the small house next to the church going west where Judy and Jane Johnson live today.

Ruth was 13 when they moved to Reed City along with her siblings Faythe, and Rhea. Both John and James were born in Reed City. Life for the Eastman family was much nicer in Reed City; not that there was more money, but because of the farming in the area, the parishioners would bring a greater variety of foods to supplement their pastors income. To have the meat, potatoes, other garden vegetables and fruit that could be canned was wonderful.

While here in Reed City, one of the families Ruth was the closest to was the Albert and Elila Ford family, who lived on Todd Street. Their children were Lamont (called Monty), Evangeline (called Toots, who was Ruth’s best friend), and Marvin, who all attended the Nazarene Church.

Lamont was in World War II, serving from 1941 to 1945 in Europe. During that time, he asked his sister if she would ask some of her friends to write to him, and Ruth was one of those that did. During this correspondence a relationship formed, and when Lamont came home on leave in 1942, Ruth and Lamont were married. Because he was still in the service, she continued to live in Grand Rapids. When Lamont was discharged from the service, they started housekeeping in Big Rapids before moving back to Reed City, and rented a house from his Uncle Orie Erbes.

Lamont and Ruth’s family was growing to to the extent that the house they were renting was too small. Their children included Rhea, Janis, Monica, Roger and Ronald. They started building a new house further south on 220 Avenue where Ruth still lives today. “We lived in the basement until we could afford to finish the upstairs, doing much of the work ourselves,” she said.

Lamont worked at Hanchett for a while, and then worked at Nelson’s Hardware. When Alvin Nelson sold the store to focus full-time on the propane business, Lamont and Milton Wirth bought into the hardware store. Ruth helped Alvin Nelson keep some of his books. She also played the organ for funerals at McDowell’s from 1954 until 2009, when she was in a car accident and didn’t feel she could go back.

Lamont died on Dec. 26, 2003, and Ruth told me Christmas that year was hard to get into the mood for. “We did have the family together in January. We were married 61 years, and it just wasn’t the same.”

I have known Ruth for many years, but always called her Mrs. Ford. She is a wonderful organist. She has accompanied me many times on the organ, when I sang for a funeral at McDowells, and occasionally at Pruitt’s. She not only a skilled organist, but knew how to follow the soloist, which makes all the difference. When I was just about finished getting this information, I told her, “Mrs. Ford I really appreciate you letting me write this story.” She said that was all right, and by the way, I could call her Ruth.