Scott Ford leaves 'remarkable legacy' in Norwalk

Cary Ashby • Sep 27, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Former students and co-workers remember the late Scott C. Ford as a genuine, supportive and respected educator with a great sense of humor who was an advocate for students and social justice.

Ford was a longtime eighth-grade English teacher at Norwalk Middle School and also was the commissioner of the Lefty Grove Baseball League in Norwalk for many years. He died early Monday afternoon at the age of 71. His visitation was this morning at the Norwalk branch of The Chapel.

Vicki Moyer Williams, of the Lefty Grove Baseball League, broke the news of Ford’s death to Facebook users.

“Continue to pray for his family as we all say goodbye to a wonderful man — a friend to anyone who met him. He had the biggest heart of anyone I knew. Please give the family some space during this difficult time. Rest in peace, Scott. I just don't know what else to say — I am still in shock,” Williams wrote on the Lefty Grove page. “This is one of the hardest posts I have ever made.”

Steve Cillo worked with Ford for 20 years as the middle school principal. He said Ford was inspiring, respected, admired, worked hard and will be remembered for being “the biggest advocate kids I have ever seen.”

“He was a pied piper for kids,” Cillo added. “He always found the glass to be half full.” 

Ford was instrumental in starting the NMS school newspaper and intramural sports. He also started and directed the eighth-grade plays.

“He talked me into more things than I can remember,” Cillo said with a laugh.

Ford at one point approached the principal about having the winners of a Right to Read event take a hot-air balloon ride. Cillo said the school board was hesitant about the idea, “but we found some middle ground” and the students eventually rode in a helicopter, using the helipad at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.

Donna Linder, of Norwalk, drove Ford’s girlfriend to visit him Sunday in the hospital.

“Since he always had a joke to tell, I asked him if he had one for me then. He nodded his head and said ‘Donald Trump.’ He then patted my hand. I have been friends with him for years. I will miss him,” Linder said.

Ford was the 2016 grand marshal for the Fourth of July parade in Norwalk.

A post in “The Real Talk of Norwalk, Ohio” Facebook page indicates, in part, that “Norwalk needs to have a Scott Ford Day” to honor “such a great man.”


Lefty Grove memories

Thom Price, of Norwalk, coached in the junior division against Ford at Lefty Grove about 40 years ago. Price said he was home “after a Saturday morning game” for about 20 minutes when Ford called him and asked if he left anything at the field.

“I went out and dumped my equipment bag out and came back to the phone and said, ‘Nope. I have everything in the bag.’ He laughed and said, ‘How about a son?’ Sure enough, I left my middle son at the ball fields. That happened in the 1980s and we still laughed about it this past season,” Price said.

For nearly 19 years, Price served on Lefty Grove board of directors with Ford.

“He is a man I will miss. … The world lost a great man,” Price said.

Colleen Preston met Ford more than eight years ago her son Ryan started the Lefty Grove division for 7- and 8-year-olds.

“He gave him the most awesome advice — to just ‘have fun.’ He has been a well-known community member mentor and friend,” Preston said. “Thank you, Mr. Ford, for being a big part of (our) lives.”


‘Remarkable legacy’

Dustin Hindel, of Milan, one of Ford’s students, attended church with him as an adult. The two often talked before and after the services at The Chapel in Norwalk. 

“Anyone within earshot would lean in, with the anticipation of an embellished, story-like joke. He had a knack for humor. His broad smile and laugh was contagious,” Hindel said.

“It was an honor to serve with him at our church. Scott and (his girlfriend) Debbie would often help behind the scenes and would cheerfully offer a helping hand whenever there was a need. …

“He is certainly a man who left a remarkable legacy. Mr. Ford poured his life into so many people, young and old. There are few like him. He has made a lasting difference in the lives of people who are now shaping the generations to come,” Hindel said.

Rae Ayy Newsome, of Norwalk, also one of Ford’s students, remembered when her teacher helped her in delivering an oral report.

“I have extreme anxiety and talked to Mr. Ford about this. He told me all I could do was try and that if I had any issues, he would take over reading for me. Well, as I started to read my first sentence, I started to hyperventilate, sweat and stutter my way through it. Mr. Ford took my paper, read it all to the class and then proceeded to tell them how amazing my report was. He gave me an ‘A,’ without taking any points off due to my not being able to read it aloud to the class,” Newsome said.

“He even talked me into trying the spelling bee that same year. He was always patient and kind. He always had a way of making me feel like it was okay that I couldn't do some things that other children could. He never made me feel like less of a person.”


‘Big advocate for everybody’

Mary Kay Cillo knew Ford for her entire time teaching in Norwalk City Schools. They met in 1977 when Ford was at Bronson Elementary and Cillo was teaching physical education.

“He was all about the kids — all in with the kids. He made it his mission to know the kids,” said Cillo, whose classroom was next to Ford’s.

Ford was the Norwalk Teachers Association president for many years. He and Cillo worked together closely as members of the union. Cillo said Ford embodied his passion for social justice by being “a big advocate for everybody” and showing people they have an obligation to hear every side of the story and everyone has an opinion, with the right to share it — even if you didn’t agree with it.

“He would always listen,” she added. “He stood up for everyone.”

Heather Case Thompson credits her “love of Anne Frank and the stories from Holocaust survivors” from being one of Ford’s students 26 years ago.

“Mr. Ford has touched so many people's lives. All of us could learn from his humility. I know that being privileged enough to know him, my life has been blessed,” she said.

“As a parent, I have watched how he not only touched the lives of Norwalk Middle School students, but he also took his love of this community to the Lefty Grove Baseball League (in) Norwalk, Ohio. In all my life I have only heard good things (about him). Not one bad thing. The world is a better place because Mr. Ford was in it.” 

Norwalk Reflector Videos