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Joe Ford has long been known for his love of farming in Marion County's agricultural community, and that devotion was recognized this year when Ford - "Joe Joe" to his friends - received the Marion County Farm Bureau's Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award.
Joe Joe's family was present to receive the award, in what was a bittersweet occasion. Ford died May 28 at the age of 67.
"He loved farming," said his wife Linda Ford. "He farmed right up to the day he passed away."
Joe Joe was the only one of his siblings who remained in agriculture throughout his life. Joe Joe and Linda raised their family, as well as corn, soybeans and cattle, on the same property that has been in the Ford family for generations.
"He had much pride in his farm and in his work," Linda Ford said. "And I was glad to see that he was very happy."
Joe Joe's dedication and devotion extended to other areas of his life as well. He was an active member of Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. He was a member of the Marion County Farm Bureau, and he served as vice-president of the Marion County Cattlemen's Association.
"He was active in his community, church, family and charitable organizations," said Gene Lanham, president of the cattlemen's association.
Lanham said he has known Ford most of his life and been involved with various farming organizations with Ford for at least 25 years. Ford was very deserving of the award, according to Lanham.
"He was on the old home place," Lanham said. "He took great pride in the appearance of the farm, not just productivity."
And Ford didn't shy away from work. He often helped when the cattlemen were cooking, whether he was on the grill or helping to get supplies, according to Linda Ford and Lanham.
But Joe Joe also worked to find ways for the cattlemen to get even better. As a member of the organization's trip committee, he helped plan an annual trip that was both educational and entertaining.
"Joe Joe's insight in the trips made them possible," Lanham said.
The cattlemen concluded this year's trip to Stone Mountain, Ga., this past week, but Joe Joe's absence was noticeable.
"Personally, I could feel the void there, he and Linda not being there on the trip," Lanham said. "And I could sense that others felt the same way."
While Joe Joe may not be with them any longer, Lanham is sure that he would want the cattlemen to carry on.
Joe Joe and Linda's son, Mike, is also carrying on the family farming tradition. Mike also serves on the Farm Bureau's Board of Directors.
Linda said she wishes she had praised Joe Joe, the man she married in 1964, more while he was living. She loved him and how he treated her and their children, and she is glad that he spent his life doing what he enjoyed.
"He just liked to be with people and he always loved farming," Linda said. "We had a good life together. It just didn't last long enough."