Eulogy for Lann N. Ford
December 29, 2016
by Rev. John Partridge
With my arrival here at Trinity Church five years ago, I came into the middle of everyone’s lives and clearly the middle of Lann and Larry’s difficult story. When I arrived, Lann had already been fighting for several years, had already retired, and was already staying mostly at home. Everyone knows that part of the story so there isn’t any need for me to say much more except that even at that late date, there were things that I learned from Lann Ford. But before we talk about that, let’s go back to the beginning.
Lann N. Huntsman was born November 5th, 1955 as the fifth child (there would eventually be eight) and second daughter of Robert and Dorothy Huntsman. From the beginning, it was obvious that Lann was her own person. She had a plan, and she didn’t care if other people, even her parents had different expectations. She was a good student, but more than that, she had a plan. She didn’t just go to school, she wanted to get an education and there were certain pieces, certain bits of education that she wanted, and she made sure that she got them. She was in speech, and in plays, and she deliberately designed and used her high school career to prepare her for college and the things that she wanted out of life in general. She knew that she wanted to go to college, even though no one else in her family had gone and even though college education wasn’t something that her parents thought was important for girls. It didn’t matter. She pushed and she pushed and she went anyway. More than that, she worked to earn her own money to pay for it.
Lann knew that she wanted to be an elementary school special education teacher but when Bard was ready to start school, he wasn’t too sure what he wanted to do or what he would be good at. But at registration, Lann knew exactly what he should do, and she took him by the hand and got him signed up. Not only that, she got him a job to help pay for it, and Bard told me that Lann basically got him through his first two years of school at Kent Stark. The two of them always scheduled their classes so that they could have time to eat lunch together every day. Lann excelled in education, both as a student and as a teacher, and on the day that she graduated, she was the first in her family to earn a college degree.
After graduation, Lann worked in Massillon, and at Reedurban, and several others before landing at St. Joan of Arc, although even then, technically, she worked for Perry Local Schools. Lann Ford was a teacher through and through. She was selfless. Her students were “her” kids, she loved her kids, she was their teacher, their friend, and their greatest advocate.
I mentioned earlier that Lann disagreed with her parents on the subject of education, but despite their disagreement, she loved her family and she was still daddy’s little girl. She knew how to use tools, but not on a car. She never touched a car. There was always dad or a brother to do that for her, and she was fine with that even though all of the cars that she drove were always beaters. Lann never owned a nice car until Larry bought one for her.
This reminds me, Larry and Lann met because Lann was dating Larry’s friend Paul Vaccani. But they broke up, and when they did, Larry was waiting and stepped right in. It must have gone well, because they were married in 1980 outside of the North Canton Civic Center. It had rained all day and stopped just in time for the wedding. Next door, there was a girls’ softball game being played, but the coaches stopped the game during the ceremony so that they wouldn’t be too disruptive. In 1983 Dara arrived and then Dustin in 1986. As much as Lann loved her students, she loved her family more. She was very family oriented and attended everything that her kids were in, she never missed a game or an event even when she had to get there in a wheelchair. And Lann was a great supporter and fan of her husband too. When Larry was awarded Teacher of the Year at Claymont, nearly all of Larry’s acceptance speech was about how Lann was responsible and why she was the reason that he was good at what he did.
I asked the family to tell me about vacations that they took together and no one could really pinpoint any one big trip or talk about an annual camping trip or anything. They remembered that Lann really loved Utah, and she loved to plan parties, but nothing else really stood out. Even so, vacations were about family. Since Larry and Lann were both teachers they had the summer off, but the impression that I got was that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, ‘ya know? Dara and Dustin were just as busy and as driven as Lann and they had plans for the summer, and so Larry and Lann would spend the summer doing whatever their kids were doing. Lann just loved being around family.
Of course, not going away on a big vacation trip meant that the summer often turned into a “stay-cation.” Especially since Lann loved keep busy, there was always something to do in the house, to the house, or around the house. One summer they tore up all the carpet, sanded, and refinished the hardwood floors underneath… in the whole house. Another summer they sided the garage, and so on.
As we met together, there were things that I heard from her family that I had heard many times before from many other people, and things that I had learned for myself. Lann Ford was a ball of energy and was always cheerful. She never seemed to have a bad day. Whenever she met someone, it was as if she had always known them. She liked to talk, genuinely cared about people, and never held a grudge. She was always happy and always thought of herself as a dancer. She danced on her toes from the time she was a little girl and she loved gymnastics.
Lann was first diagnosed with Multi-System Atrophy in 2004 and took disability retirement in 2007 but through it all, she always handled her disability with calm, humility, and grace. When I first met her, Lann was already in a wheelchair, had difficulty speaking and was already transitioning to using her spelling board. It was hard for us to communicate and between her soft voice and my hearing loss, it was impossible without another person to listen and repeat what she had said. But even then, she just smiled and did the best that she could. Lann Ford had every reason to be frustrated and angry from time to time. Everyone would have understood if she occasionally yelled at God and lashed out at people… but she never did.
I’m not sure that I would be able to do what she did if I was confronted with the sort of challenges that she faced. But that was the strength of her character. This was the woman who, even in high school, knew what she wanted to do, where she wanted to go, and what she needed to be doing to get there. This was the woman who determined to go to college even though no one from her family had done it before, even though her parents didn’t think that it was important, and even though she had to find ways to pay for it herself. This was the woman who came to every event that her children participated in, was her husband’s greatest supporter, encourager, and cheerleader, and who challenged her employers, or administrators, or the system if she needed to so that she could advocate for her students. Lann Ford must be one of the strongest women that I have ever known. From the very beginning, she was determined to live life on her terms and she refused to allow her disability to change that. Lann refused to allow her disease to change who she was no matter what.
My friends, if any of us have learned anything at all from Lann Ford, it’s this: If any of us can be half as brave, half as strong, half as determined, half as kind, half as compassionate, half as caring, and half as happy as she was, we will change the world. I am certain of this because every one of us is here today because Lann Ford inspired us or changed us in some way, and every one of us that is here can name five more people who aren’t here for whom she did the same thing. As we leave this place, the best way for us to honor Lann is for us to be for our families, our friends, our coworkers, and the people around us, the kind of a person, the kind of a blessing, that Lann was for us.
Lann liked the words from Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, as well as the song, Turn, Turn, Turn by The Byrds which used that scripture as the basis for the lyrics. We aren’t able to play the song for you today, but listen to these words recorded for us by King Solomon:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain have the workers from their toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. 11 He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; 13 moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. 14 I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.
Lann N. Ford
November 4, 1955 – December 24, 2016
Resided in Canton, OH
Lann N. (Huntsman) Ford, 61, passed away December 24, 2016 following an extended illness. She was born November 4, 1955 in Canton to the late Robert and Dorothy (Tyrell) Huntsman.
Lann was a 1974 graduate of Perry High School. She was an elementary L.D. teacher for Perry Local Schools until she took disability retirement in 2007. Lann loved her work and was a devoted advocate for her L.D. students. Lann was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Perry Heights.
Lann was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her husband of 36 years, Larry K. Ford; daughter, Dara; son, Dustin and daughter-in-law, Megan; siblings, Lee Huntsman, Brent Huntsman, Brad Huntsman, Lynn Fay, Laynn Vaccani, Bard Huntsman, and Brett Huntsman; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Calling hours will be held in Reed Funeral Home Canton Chapel on Wednesday, December 28 from 6-8pm. Funeral service will be held in Trinity United Methodist Church (3757 Lincoln Way East Massillon, Ohio 44646) on Thursday, December 29 at 10am with Pastor John Partridge officiating. Interment will follow at Richville Cemetery. In Lieu of flowers family suggests donations to Trinity United Methodist Church in Perry Heights.