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Father leads family through tragedy

Auburn man says his children are most precious gifts
By: Bridget Jones, Journal staff writer
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One Auburn father always knew his children would be the most important people in his life. David Ford, an Auburn resident for 20 years, said it was obvious to him that his wife, Lorie, was the one. “When I fell in love with my wife I fell hard,” said David Ford, 55, who grew up in Los Angeles. “One of the values I saw in her that fit a value in me was that she loved kids.” The Fords had five children: Theresa, 27, John, 25, Clare, 23, Michael and Katherine, 19. Ford’s family experienced a number of tragedies last summer, beginning with the sudden death of his 19-year-old son, Michael, a Jesuit High School basketball star and St. Mary’s College student. Michael collapsed June 6, 2009 as a result of Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the muscle of the heart. The disease is sometimes a cause in the sudden cardiac deaths of young athletes. Michael, who had played competitive basketball since his days at St. Joseph Catholic School in Auburn, showed no symptoms of the disease, which is typical, Lorie Ford said. In July 2009 David and Lorie were involved in a car crash in which another motorist ran a red light and collided with the driver’s side of their car, where Lorie was sitting. Both David and Lorie recovered. The next month the Fords lost their house in the 49 Fire, which claimed 63 homes in North Auburn. David Ford said he and Lorie had as much communication as possible with their children after those events. “I think from the very beginning of our very difficult year … I reminded all of us that we are all going to feel different things … and it’s all OK,” he said. “Again I’m not perfect, but I try to remind everybody that we are going about this each in our own way.” Although the Ford family is still grieving for the loss of Michael, their Catholic beliefs help them keep faith that they will see him again, David Ford said. Loss doesn’t mean giving up, David Ford said. “I know that deep inside God wants me to be there for my other kids,” he said. “He wants me to be there for my wife. The call in all this is to continue to live life. You can’t allow yourself to get stuck.” Lorie Ford said the fire was almost a way for the family to move on with their lives after Michael’s tragic death. “I’m still looking forward to living life,” she said. “We have four other beautiful kids.” David Ford said performing funerals and bonding with families who have also lost children has been a positive way for him to take the experience of Michael’s death and reach out to those in need. Katherine Ford, who now attends St. Mary’s College just as her brothers and sisters did, said her dad’s humor has been an important part of keeping the family strong. “It would be a lie to say we don’t struggle with relationships in our family, but I would say with him, probably his humor is what keeps everything light-hearted and fun,” Katherine Ford said. The family has a lot to look forward to with the upcoming marriage of Theresa on August 14 at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Auburn, where David acts as a deacon and where the family held Michael’s funeral. Theresa Ford, who works as a third-grade teacher in Oakland, said this kind of event is important for her family. “It’s a happy occasion to look forward to, and it is kind of weird sometimes we will look back and think ‘Wow, a year has gone by,’” Theresa Ford said. “In hindsight we just kept moving forward. It’s bittersweet … but it is happy, too. Life is going to go on.” This year, Father’s Day will be another celebration to bring the family together, Theresa Ford said. “Father’s Day is just another chance to be with him, and I know it’s important to him to have his kids nearby,” she said. Theresa Ford said her dad’s deep faith and dedication to his family are always an inspiration. “He’s always there for us,” she said. “Those are the kind of parents I have. He’s just so strong in (his faith), so that helps him, which helps us stay positive and continue going on, which is difficult.” Clare Ford, a nurse at Stanford Hospital, said her dad has not only been an inspiration to the family during difficult times, but to the community of Auburn. “He’s very loving and generous,” Clare Ford said. “He is a giver. He likes to give to the community. He is really looked at as a leader, so it’s a great thing.” David Ford said he has basic dreams for his children. “My practical dreams of course are that they become well-educated and morally-formed young men and women,” he said. “My general dream is pretty simple. I really hope and pray my kids will not only live on the surface, but live an interior life. I hope they are in-tune with their inner selves.” Lorie Ford said that even as their children grow up and start their own lives, David works hard to make sure they are cared for. “He always has the best intentions and the greatest love for his family, as far as he wants to do the right thing for them,” she said. David Ford’s main message this Father’s Day is clear. “My kids are the most precious gifts that God has given me, and I’m so proud and I love them,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com