Thomas E. Ford, Jr.

thomas ford, jr.

July 9, 1931 ~ July 25, 2015

Thomas E. Ford, age 84, a resident of Leonia since 1964, died peacefully at home surrounded by his loving family on Saturday, July 25, 2015. Mr. Ford was born in Detroit, Michigan on July 9, 1931. Mr. Ford was a graduate of Buffalo State College and received a Master's Degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. From 1954-56 he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, followed by a forty year career as an educational administrator. Mr. Ford spent six years in international education, including a two year stint in Kabul, Afghanistan with a Teachers College, Columbia University/U.S. Aid team of educators at the Institute of Education and Kabul University. For seventeen years he was associated with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in several capacities. As a Program Officer he was responsible for project developments in a number of areas including increasing minority enrollment in engineering education. Mr. Ford assisted in the development of a marine education program under the Dean at Kingsborough Community College, The City University of New York from 1984 until his retirement in 1996. One of Tom's proudest achievements was being elected Leonia's first Democratic mayor (1972-1975) on record. The Press Journal editorial of January 1976 stated: "Mayor Ford leaves a record as a man of action who did not fear changes; a colorful, forceful and outspoken leader who knew how to get things done. Under his leadership, municipal government took a greater part in bringing about local changes needed to keep abreast of the times. Many viewed Mayor Ford's progressive programs with some reservation, as a possible threat to the charming residential character of the community. Many of the programs instituted under his tutorship have brought Leonia better services; tenants found support in their elected officials, senior citizens found a champion for their cause in their mayor; those concerned with the environment found a sympathetic listener and all Leonians benefited from Mayor Ford's expertise and understanding. Hopefully his work will be continued and Leonia will always retain its uniqueness and its charm." Beyond his mayoral tenure he was active in a variety of community endeavors for more than fifteen years, including Chairman of the Board of Adjustment from 1978 to 1983. He is survived by his wife Diane of 59 years and daughters Christine Ford of Ramsey, Caryn Coyle of Dumont and Kimberly O'Brien of Leonia and his five grandchildren, Bradford, Jillian, Ryan, Sean and Jack. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Oelhaf House/Presbyterian Church, PO Box 448, Leonia, NJ 07605. The family will receive their friends Wednesday from 5:00 – 8:00 PM in the Frank A. Patti & Kenneth Mikatarian Funeral Home, 327 Main Street, Fort Lee (across from the public library). Service Thursday at 10:30 AM. For information call (201) 944-0100 or


Visitation at Funeral Home: July 29, 2015 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Frank A. Patti & Kenneth Mikatarian Funeral Home
327 Main Street
Fort Lee, NJ 07024

Funeral Service: July 30, 2015 10:30 am

Frank A. Patti & Kenneth Mikatarian Funeral Home
327 Main Street
Fort Lee, NJ 07024

Final Resting Place:

Rosedale Crematory
408 Orange Road
Montclair, NJ 07042

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  1. My love and condolences to all of the Ford family members. A wonderful man and great neighbor for so many years.

  2. I was saddened to hear of Tom's passing. I remember him as a great neighbor and good man. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  3. Dear Ryan and Family,
    Wishing you comfort in friendship and hope in prayer. Words cannot heal the pain of losing someone so dear. Wishing you peace and special memories of your grandfather.

  4. I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family on the loss of your loved one. May God almighty father of tender mercies and all comfort continue to strengthen you all (2 Corinthians 1: 3, 4). We all indeed look forward to the fulfillment of God's promise to completely remove death, tears, mourning, outcry and pain (Revelation 21:4). The Bible also provides assurance that in God's Kingdom, our dead loved ones will be brought back to life ( John 5:25). May these promises from God bring you comfort. You can also learn further about God's purposes at

  5. My wife and I and children knew Tom Ford from early on when we lived in Leonia, New Jersey. Here is the eulogy we read at the fine service held at Frank Patti's facility on July
    30th, 2015.

    July 30, 2015

    By Joseph N. Muzio

    Good morning.

    Thomas E. Ford was born on July 9, 1931. He died on
    July 25, 2015.

    To Tom’s loving wife Diane Jankowski Ford; to
    their three daughters, Cris, Caryn and Kim; to
    their 5 grandchildren, Jillian, Brad, Ryan, Sean, and
    Jack, the youngest; to Vic, Diane’s brother and his wife
    Pat and their daughter Susan; to family friends:
    Danny, Rick, John and Jim; to next door neighbors
    Debbie and Matt; to all others here, the dedicated hospice people, and to all others here and beyond who ever knew Tom.

    Let me begin this eulogy by reading an insightful,
    encouraging poem. And if you’re all attentive and
    awake and patient I will conclude this eulogy with
    another poem that Tom liked.

    It’s titled:

    The Dash Leslie Ellis, author

    I read of a man who stood
    to speak at the funeral of his friend.
    He referred to the dates on his tombstone
    from the beginning …to the end.
    He noted that first came the date of his birth
    and spoke of the second with tears,
    But he said that what mattered most of all
    was the dash between those years
    For that dash represents all the time
    that he spent alive on earth,
    And now only those who loved him know
    what that little line is worth.
    For it matters not, how much we own;
    the cars, the house, the cash.
    What matters is how we live and love
    when we’re living out the dash.
    If we could just slow down enough to consider
    what’s true and what is real,
    And always try to understand
    the way other people feel.
    And …be less quick to anger
    and show appreciation more,
    And love the people in our lives
    like we’ve never loved before.
    If we treat each other with respect,
    and more often wear a smile,
    Remember that this special dash
    might only last a while.
    So, when your eulogy is being read
    with your life’s actions to rehash…
    Will you be pleased with what there’s to say
    about how you spent your dash?

    Tom Ford’s early childhood years were hardly
    pleasant, comfortable, or traditional. Like all of us
    he was forever shaped by those early childhood
    forces imprinted within him. The extent of their
    influences remain mysterious. Nor can they be
    disregarded, denied or minimized.

    Tom was raised in upstate New York during the
    height of the Great Depression, with his mother,
    brother Mike and sister Pat. His father abandoned
    them early on, and was never in their lives again.
    No one knows what happened to him.

    During this Great Depression and poverty
    each of the Ford children spent time separately in
    foster homes and orphanages. In some of these
    places, Tom was beaten and there was no appeal.
    Tom’s recollection of these experiences were deep,
    traumatic, and lonely.

    After college in Buffalo, and after Tom and Diane
    were supposed to get married but didn’t, by sheer
    accident they reconnected in California: she was
    teaching in Long Beach, California with some of her buddies
    from the East Coast; he was in the Marine Corps as a
    Second Lieutenant at Camp Pendleton. From there
    their lives moved on to again dating, an engagement,
    and eventually marriage in 1956. As the cliché goes,
    “the rest is history.’’

    Despite the chaos and discomfort of his
    childhood years and possibly some in Diane’s too,
    Tom in concert with Diane devoted their entire
    lives to each other, their daughters and their
    grandchildren. Their efforts have been to
    offer love and stability to their family, even those
    who were only there for awhile.

    Family was and is everything to Tom. His unyielding
    commitment and belief was in the strength, love and
    sustainability of family. His earlier fragmented
    experiences prepared him intuitively to value and
    strive for family and community.

    When there were lifetime difficulties as there
    always are, sometimes he’d become so quiet there was
    only his silence. He would hold fast. He was wounded
    but would say nothing or little until that matter
    passed or was resolved.

    Tom’s unannounced mantra could be found in the words
    Winston Churchill who told the students at Harrow in 1941:

    Never give in, never give in,
    Never, never, never, never,
    in nothing great or small,
    large or petty,
    except to convictions of honour and good sense.

    Like the long-distance runner he was in college, he
    sure was a persistent, enduring human being.

    It was in the early spring of 1971, a meager 44 plus
    years ago that Diane and Tom invited Lois and me to
    their home for dinner, to discuss whether Tom
    and I, along with others would like to team up and be
    part of a local political campaign in Leonia.

    From early on we knew we were instinctively
    compatible. We seemed to like one another right
    away. Some people you brush against and move
    on. But then there are those you sense a closeness,
    an affinity, and you want to be with them and know them
    better and longer.

    There were substantial initial reasons this might be.
    We both had been raised as Roman Catholics;
    and both had either fallen away from the church over
    time, or been shoved out the door. We both had been
    United States Marine Corps Officers, (although later
    on when i jokingly kidded Tom about never having
    served, he came over with his honorable discharge papers
    and a photo of himself in full uniform which is here today).
    We both had run for elected offices in Leonia and had
    lost; and we both were forthright, judgmental, and
    intense. Others might have suggested we were
    stubborn young men loathe to compromise.

    Added to this mixture we were both fortunately
    married to strong, highly competent, patient and
    determined women.

    It was to become a perfect secondary simulated
    marriage between Tom and me; forged by inexplicable
    circumstances. So began our joint journey that is
    still going on until today.

    After an intensive door-to-door campaign and with
    our colleagues Peg Muenstermann, Dick Dean, Marty
    Hayes and George Tomaro, and involving dedicated
    volunteers like Don Wynn and Anita and Manfred Gans and
    Ginny Brown and Bob Murphy, and some others around
    in Leonia, we won that election. We were now in the majority and served for 4 years. It was a wonderful experience to serve with Tom as mayor and the other active, caring and attentive democrats.

    With Tom leading the charge, this was an exciting time In Leonia. We were energetic and full of positive
    missions. Because of Tom’s administrative leadership
    and persistence we were able to accomplish a great deal that has impacted the history and development of our Leonia community:

    Dedicating 14 ½ acres of Highwood Hills in perpetuity as a nature preserve and buffer;

    Forming the still active Leonia Environmental Commission for recycling and education;

    Bringing about Leonia senior housing to completion;

    Studying tax assessments to ensure fairness for all property owners;

    Instituting policies to professionalize and educate
    Leonia police department officers;

    Involving more concerned Leonians who had long
    been excluded;

    and with Tom’s insistence, treating the old guard minority
    with civility and respect.

    Other than our immediate families, Tom and I have
    spent more time in these 44 plus years with one
    another: Car pooling for 12 years several hours,
    each day; morning breakfasts all over NYC and
    Brooklyn where we studied the quality of oatmeal in
    hundreds of restaurants. After all, Tom was a fine expert
    as to whether there were any worms in the oatmeal,
    based on his wonderful and extensive experiences
    in foster homes and orphanages. Together in Brooklyn
    at Kingsborough Community College; talking; sharing books;
    ideas; thoughts; many letters; going to plays and
    movies; Junior Mance jazz concerts; visiting on

    We were involved in all sorts of personal and professional
    causes, and making efforts to try to shape the community about us.

    And of course, attending the three weddings of their
    lovely daughters.

    We’d make frequent reference to the paradoxes,
    the inconsistencies, the enigmas, the mysteries throughout our society, and the unresolved long-standing personal, corporate,
    educational, environmental and global issues.

    As for those car pooling experiences, offspring Cris
    Ford and Frank Muzio were occasionally with us and
    can attest to those unique and adventurous, sometimes
    harrowing experiences. These were indeed wild rides!!!!

    In the mid-19th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson,
    once wrote: “The world is his (I added “or hers”) who can see
    through its pretentions.”

    Tom Ford lived Emerson’s statement. He was
    uncomfortable with anything phoney, insincere,
    manipulative, anything that smacked of taking
    advantage of another human being. He understood
    suffering and unfairness, and never forgot those
    who continued to suffer or were disadvantaged.

    Nor did he understand those who because of good
    luck and advantage, behaved as if they thought they
    were genetically better, who had amnesia and
    insensitively forgot. They were unfeeling and
    arrogant. They neglect the variables that contribute
    or detract from a person’s development and their
    ultimate success.

    When Tom was confronted with such situations
    he often spoke out. You always knew where
    Tom stood. And sometimes to maintain civility and
    harmony, he would remain silent. Later on, we’d talk
    about such matters in our many meetings and
    carpooling sessions.

    Tom consistently felt deeply for others. Since he
    barely had a father only briefly, he mentored other
    young men and women, including our three sons Frank,
    Edward and Matthew. At the college, he spent much time and
    patience in advising students, mostly males, about the
    Marine Technology Program and their future lives.
    He understood how we all need assistance and

    If I were psychologically trained, I might
    suggest Tom served as a self-appointed surrogate
    father to many of the students he helped,
    the father he never had in his life.

    When he was at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
    before coming to Kingsborough, he had responsibilities
    to offset some of the discrepancies he saw in our society.

    He was involved in minority programs to improve
    the educations and upward mobility of
    downtrodden groups that were long neglected.
    He served as a trustee of a black college,
    Tugaloo and was a major force in that place and its
    students for ever after.

    At meetings in Leonia when Tom was the mayor,
    and at the college where we worked Tom had the
    uncanny ability to see through the jargon, the
    excuses, the trivia, and the selfishness. And when this
    went on too long, he’d abruptly speak out to make
    clarity and to promote decision-making. He would ask
    questions, methodically seek data, want to look at
    written reports and better understand the issues.
    Then he’d make notes. And at a subsequent meeting
    he’d inquire: What had been accomplished
    since we last met? This unnerved and bothered those
    reluctant to do positive things.

    He made me a better and more thoughtful person and a more effective leader at the college and in life. For a few years I was
    Tom’s “boss,” but Tom never had a “boss” nor needed one.,
    He was always my colleague.

    Afterwards when Tom and I had retired from our
    missions at the college, we continued to be in close

    Tom absolutely refused to use a computer;
    but always analytical and concerned, he had one

    of his highly competent support staff members: wife Diane, granddaughter Ryan or daughter Kim send his detailed thoughts and comments, and questions on all sorts of topics.

    I used to kid him that with his interest in poetry,
    especially William Wordsworth and other authors,
    along with his writing of many letters to his 5
    grandchildren and his daughters over their years of development, he’d have been a fine english professor. Tom’s writing
    is direct, clear, uncluttered and insightful. He once
    wrote a detailed paper on Wordsworth, “Poet of
    Solitude, Nature and the Universal Feelings of the
    Human Heart.” Much of Tom’s life was spent in
    solitude and in privacy, along with his books; his discs;
    his poetry; and his travels with Diane .

    To have known Tom, and to have worked with him,
    and to continually socialize with him so intensely was a
    rare privilege still with me to this day. He let me in;
    and allowed me to be his friend. What an honor this
    has been .

    As soon as one thinks you know another person,
    no matter how long and what whatever intimate
    depth and breadth, do you think you ever knew that
    person completely? Can anybody get inside another
    person’s mind and spirit? Or are there always
    components, fragments and particles remaining
    forever unknown and unknowable and locked up within all of us?
    There were dimensions of Tom that were hidden,
    sometimes almost mysterious, unspoken, inexplicable.
    Like all of us, he was complex; like all of us, he was
    sometimes confusing; and like all of us he was flawed.

    By now it must be patently clear it is impossible to
    encapsulate our long, loving, lasting friendship. Our
    lives have been inextricably and accidentally

    And, by now, it must be patently obvious that Tom lived
    his life with purpose, integrity and sincerity. He
    accomplished so much beyond any personal
    accolades and he’s done so quietly, modestly, never seeking praise. His many accomplishments transcend time, space, glory.
    While on his journey he has cared and loved
    many of us.

    His journey is over and yet in so many ways it is
    still underway and flourishing for all of us. Just look

    Now, with your patience, I would like to conclude
    and read one more brief poem appropriate for Tom.
    He liked this poem.


    Like the River Thomas Wolfe, author

    Why are you absent in the night, my love?
    Where are you when the bells ring in the night?
    Now, there are bells again,
    How strange to hear the bells
    In this vast, sleeping city!
    Now, in a million little towns,
    Now in the dark and lonely places of this earth,
    Small bells are ringing out the time!
    O my dark soul,
    My child, my darling, my beloved,
    Where are you now,
    And in what place,
    And in what time?
    O, ring, sweet bells above him
    While he sleeps!
    I send my love to you upon those bells.

    Strange time, forever lost,
    Forever flowing like the river!
    Lost time, lost people, and lost love –
    Forever lost!
    There’s nothing you can hold
    There in the river!
    There’s nothing you can keep
    There in the river!
    It takes your love, it takes your life,
    It takes the great ships going out to sea,
    And it takes time,
    Dark, delicate time,
    That little ticking moments of strange time
    That count us into death.

    Now in the dark
    I hear the passing of dark time,
    And all the sad and secret flowing of my life.
    All of my thoughts are flowing like the river,
    All of my life is passing like the river,
    I dream and talk and feel just like the river,
    As it flows by me,
    By me, to the sea.

    And now for all of us still here: Let’s keep thinking and
    working on our dashes from our beginnings to our

    Thank you Tom, with love and Semper Fidelis.

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