Obituary of John ("Jack") Ford

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John "Jack" Ford

September 27, 1943 - February 14, 2010

Hampton Union, Friday, February 19, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
John "Jack" Ford
[Courtesy photo]

HAMPTON -- John "Jack" Ford, 66, died Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010, in Exeter Hospital after a lengthy battle with cancer.

He was born Sept. 27, 1943, in Lowell, Mass., the son of the late Patrick and Mildred (Faye) Ford and was raised in Lowell.

He attended St. Patrick High School and Keith Academy graduating in 1962. He received his bachelor's degree in English from Merrimack College and his master's degree from Salem (Mass.) State College.

He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Pamela Ford; one son, Matthew Ford of New York City; four brothers and their wives, Patrick H. and Ruth Ford of Rye, Peter and Bonnie Williams of Hollidaysburg, Penn., Michael Brick and his family of Northampton, Mass., and Paul and Ann Brick of Florida; two sisters Judy Brick of Northampton and Cathy Vogt and her husband, Rob, of Massachusetts; his father- and mother-in-law, Robert and Natalie Hockenhull and their family of Hampton; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

WE REMEMBER: Mr. Ford was a dedicated English teacher and basketball coach.

His career began in 1966 at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, Mass., and then St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass. He came to Winnacunnet High School in Hampton in 1974 where he was an English teacher and the coach of the Boys Varsity Basketball Team.

The highlight of his coaching career was winning the Class L state championship in 1992. He retired from coaching in 2005 after 31 seasons (700 games) and was named the Class L Coach of the Year three times. He retired from his teaching career in 2007.

He was a man with a passion for life, politics, and most of all basketball. He enjoyed traveling and literature. He was proud of his Irish heritage and Lowell roots.

Mr. Ford was an active member of the local Democratic Party; a member of the Seacoast Education Association; and the N.H. Basketball Coaches Association.

He and his wife enjoyed traveling, visiting many exotic locations. He took great comfort from his dog, Dudley.

SERVICES: A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday, Feb. 19, at 11 a.m., in St. Theresa Church, 815 Central Road, Rye. Burial will be private.

A reception will be held immediately following the Mass at the Galley Hatch Conference Center, 815 Lafayette Road, Hampton.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Winnacunnet High School Foundation, Jack Ford Scholarship Fund, 1 Alumni Drive, Hampton, NH 03842 or to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney St., Boston, MA 02115-6060.

The family would like to thank the staffs at Exeter Hospital and Rockingham County VNA and Hospice for their caring support during his hospital stay.

Coach "Jack" Ford Remembered for Memories of 'Greatness'

By Ken Stejbach, Sports Writer for Seacoast Media Group.

Hampton Union, Friday, February 19, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
WHS vs Central Championship 1996.
[Ken Stejbach photo.]

Rummaging through boxes Monday night there it was. A couple rolls of film, one marked WHS vs. Central '96. Another marked Ex vs. WHS '96.

It's not the sort of thing you'd find yourself doing on a cold winter night. Especially in a unheated, knee-crawling-like attic that takes a Marine-line maneuver to get up to.

But when you're looking for greatness, you tend for forget any hardships.

Greatness. That's the word that came to mind when I found out Jack Ford had died.

Greatness came rushing back through my mind like the Winnacunnet fastbreaks he orchestrated for so many years.

It's only natural, you remember the first time you met him.

For this reporter, it was at the Winnacunnet High School office almost 23 years ago, and in typical Jack Ford fashion, he was dealing out one-liners — like a pitchman selling anti-gravity pens — having to do with the lack of media coverage for his team.

Just a fledgling reporter at the time, but by the time the tete-a-tete was finished the master had made his point, and the student had learned his.

Through the years those lessons continued. Mutual respect grew.

Can't say I became a true friend. Reporters aren't supposed to be buddy-buddy with the guys they write about, but there grew an ever-lasting admiration and respect for this man. It was being around this greatness, that I relished most, like the times he spent talking about his trips abroad with his boys.

It was always about his boys.

It was only natural to remember the championship in 1992, but all the years were special for Jack Ford. So were all of his boys.

Friday, a number of his boys will be carrying their former coach to his final resting place.

Mike Daboul, now an assistant principal at Winnacunnet and the baseball coach, and Jay McKenna, the boys basketball coach, will be among many.

Daboul visited Ford, who was nearing the end of his battle with a leukemia-like disease, at Exeter Hospital this past weekend. "We talked about holding onto stuff," said Daboul emotionally.

Though Ford was struggling to breathe "he leaned up and gave me a hug, and I thanked him for everything he did for me," said Daboul, "and I told him I'd never be able to do what I'm doing now without him now. In typical Jack Ford fashion, it was never about him. Never ever about him. No matter how much success he brought to the table."

Daboul remembered the first time they met.

Actually Ford reminded Daboul about the first time they met. Daboul was an 8-year-old and at his family's restaurant (Whale's Tale) and Ford just happened to be enjoying dining there at the time.

Mostly, though, Daboul's first memories race back to his seventh-grade All-Star years on the court. It's those years that it began for many of young boys like Daboul.

"Jack was a very, very special person in my life, and I was a very special person in his," said Daboul. "He played such a defining role in making who and what people turned out to be."

McKenna, one of Ford's boys, turned out to be Winnacunnet's next boys basketball coach.

McKenna was a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire and at an open-gym session when Ford walked in and told him he needed some help.

"I was thrilled," said McKenna. "I was so honored, knowing that of all the kids he coached and helped out, he would ask me."

McKenna, who eventually became the freshman coach, first started scouting for Ford.

There were stormy and snowy nights, like that one when McKenna found himself wondering if he should make a trip to a game, knowing it would probably be canceled anyway. Knowing Ford, however, he made the trip, because "I didn't want to let him down."

"As former players we find ourselves always striving for excellence," said McKenna. "That's what he taught us to do, and we've taken that into life as adults, and my case as a father, husband, teacher and coach."

One of Ford's favorite sayings, noted McKenna, was "there's no such thing as stagnation."

What that meant in Ford's lingo is: that if you're not working hard, you're not getting better. You're regressing because someone else is working harder than you, and getting better.

Though Ford was slipping away this past weekend, "he was Coach Ford," said McKenna, recalling his last visits. "He was very proud and very much Coach Ford in his own way."

Daboul said Ford gave him his picture to hang on the wall of his office on the last day before he retired from teaching and coaching. Daboul had two other pictures hanging on the wall, one of Babe Ruth smoking a cigar, the other, a picture of Ted Williams in his military uniform (Williams was a pilot during World War II).

"I want you to have this," said Ford to Daboul that day, and "I want you to remember what I tell you."

In retrospect, that remembrance had to do with doing it things their own way.

Ford certainly had his own way, and it was all about greatness.

That's why I felt so fortunate to find this one lasting memory of the man in an attic rarely ventured.

While most photos have gotten lost or misplaced or tossed out through the years — don't get me going on this topic — here was that one piece of treasure that I could look at and feel.

Certainly not pretty negatives for Ford. That was the year Ford's team lost to Exeter and the year the Warriors lost to Manchester Central.

Win or lose, they are priceless just the same.

McKenna's image of Ford leaves us on a better note:

Wearing a collared Winnacunnet basketball shirt, his shorts on during the summer season, his sweats during the winter with his practice plan tucked in, a whistle around his neck, and getting after it.

Teaching and coaching.

"That's the place," said McKenna, referring to his many practices under Ford. "That's the image."

Ken Stejbach is a sports writer for Seacoast Media Group. He can be reached at

Boys basketball: Warriors pull out 67-56 win over Nashua North

By Terrill Covey

Hampton Union, Friday, February 19, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- On a night when former coach Jack Ford was honored prior to the game, the Winnacunnet High School boys basketball team did its best to honor him on the court as well.

The Warriors rode a feisty defense, and a huge fourth quarter by Jesse Gould to a 67-56 win over Nashua North on Wednesday in their first game since Ford passed away on Sunday.

The win was the 11th straight by the Warriors and are now 12-1 on the season. Winnacunnet coach Jay McKenna used an adage coined by Ford to describe the game.

"To steal a coach Ford phrase, 'sometimes you need a nuts-and-bolts win,' and that's what this was," McKenna said. "We knew they were very aggressive and athletic, and this was a tough one."

Steve Cronan and Ryan Dunn had led the Warriors offense for three quarters, but with a 49-45 lead heading into the fourth, Gould took the reigns and scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth.

"It didn't seem like he had that many," said McKenna. "But he stepped up for us again."

The Warriors have had different players score double figures from one night to the next. On a night where Harry Knowles had just two points, and Nick McGrail was held to eight, Steve Cronan scored 16 points and had five rebounds.

"Steve had a big game for us on Friday as well," McKenna said. "He's going to the basket, and rebounding, and playing with the confidence that an athlete of his caliber should be playing with."

In addition to Cronan's offensive output, point guard Ryan Dunn put up a huge offensive night across the boards with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He and Gould also held North sharpshooter Ryan Gauthier to just four points.

North took an 18-13 lead early in the second quarter, but the Warriors fought back with a quick 7-0 spurt keyed by a Gould 3-pointer and took a 20-18 lead, and went into halftime with a 31-29 lead.

The Nashua tandem of Trevor Rancourt and Javon Williams gave Winnacunnet fits, however, as Williams, the sophomore guard routinely broke the Winnacunnet press, and Rancourt hit shots from all over the court, as well as creating shots for teammates.

North was able to hang close throughout the third quarter as well, as the Warriors held just a 49-45 lead after three quarters.

The Warriors made some defensive adjustments at halftime to try to cut down on the North drives to the hoop. McKenna had them play a 2-3 zone for most of the second half, and the Warriors were finally able to slow down Williams a bit.

"They really want to get to the basket," McKenna said. "In the first half we didn't help enough. We switched to the zone to try to cut down on their penetration, and the kids adjusted well. A good team has to make those adjustments in order to be successful."

Rancourt led North with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Williams scored 15 points, along with four assists.

McKenna said the win was a special one, being the first game since Ford, his mentor and former coach, passed away.

"Absolutely," he said. "This one is special."

Winnacunnet is at Dover tonight.

Boys basketball: Ford remembered as WHS boys take court for first time since death

Warriors pay tribute to Ford before game

Hampton Union, Friday, February 19, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
A chair commemorating the life of former Winnacunnet High School boys basketball coach Jack Ford sits empty in his honor during the Warriors Class L boys basketball game against Nashua North in Hampton on Wednesday
[John Carden photo]

HAMPTON -- The empty seat next to Winnacunnet High School boys basketball coach Jay McKenna on Tuesday night was representative of a much larger void in the Winnacunnet community.

Coach Jack Ford, who led the Warriors for 31 years, passed away on Sunday after a lengthy battle with a Leukemia-like blood illness. The Warriors took the court on Wednesday night, for the first time since his passing, and notched a 67-56 win over Nashua North.

Winnacunnet athletic director Carol Dozibrin gave a speech to honor Ford prior to the game and led the crowd in a moment of silence.

"Remember his laughter, his wit, his love of basketball," Dozibrin said. "He was an icon on the Winnacunnet campus and on courts throughout New England and Europe. He believed in his players on the court, but also outside of the game."

McKenna had a small shamrock on the collar of his shirt, a representation of Ford's Irish heritage, and the seat directly next to McKenna remained empty — as it will for the remainder of the season.

"His influence was deep and widespread," McKenna said. "If you go through town you will find all kinds of people who played for him, or had him in class."

Adam Edgar, who played on Ford's 1991-92 Class L championship team (the Warriors only state championship to date) said that behind Ford's public face, was a man who worked diligently behind the scenes.

"Everyone knows what a great coach and teacher he was," Edgar said. "But what a lot of people don't know is how hard he worked behind the scenes. He was instrumental in getting the Winnacunnet Foundation off the ground."

Edgar said the Winnacunnet Foundation is a group which raises money to allow teachers to extend opportunities to students which the budget may not have the money to cover.

He said Ford did none of his work in order to receive praise or recognition, but because of a genuine desire to help the students he worked with and the community he called home.

"I came by the school in the summer, after Jack was diagnosed, and he was out there pounding in the bricks around the flag pole that he had gotten donations for," Edgar said. "That was typical Jack. There was no one around, nobody to see it."

Winnacunnet junior varsity coach Don Lamprey said Ford was a teacher on and off the court, and kept his ties to his former athletes tight even after they had graduated.

"People don't realize that if you played for Jack, after you graduated, he would do anything for you," Lamprey said. "Next to my parents he is definitely the most influential person in my life."

Lamprey said Ford was always there to help his players, current and former, whenever they needed him.

McKenna said Ford instilled an attitude of hard work and determination in all of his athletes, and that he and Lamprey have tried to continue that tradition as the current coaches in the program.

"I have tried to sum up what he taught us into one saying," McKenna said. "Play hard, play smart, play tough, and play together. If that is the approach you take you have a great chance at achieving great things both on and off the court."

So it was only fitting that in their first game since his passing, the Warriors gritted out a 67-56 win over a tough Nashua North team.

McKenna said the win was "absolutely" a special one for him. The occasion was not lost on his players either, despite the fact that none of the current Warriors players had the chance to play for Ford.

"I never had the chance to play for him, but you can see what he means to everyone who played for him," said co-captain Ryan Dunn. "Though I never got to play for him, you can see the impact he has had on the program."

Fellow co-captain Jason Busfield said several of Ford's former players are coaches — and teachers.

"Mr. McKenna is a product of his coaching system," Busfield said. "Our style of play, our style of defense came from Coach Ford. What he started is what we are still doing."

Dozibrin said that Ford's influence isn't limited to just the basketball program. She said he used to drive the golf team and coached freshman football, among other things.

"Any time we needed anything, Jack was right there," she said. "He was out laying bricks around the flag pole on a hot July day. That's how unselfish he was. He did it himself, rather than asking someone else."

She said Ford's influence stretched from the classroom, to the sports fields, and into the political realm.

Several former Winnacunnet players returned to watch the game and share memories of the man who touched so many lives.

"As far as I'm concerned he is Winnacunnet basketball," Lamprey said. "He always will be."

Winnacunnet High School athletic director Carol Dosibrin, far right, reads a commemoration of New Hampshire Hall of Fame basketball coach Jack Ford who passed away Sunday, while current coaches Jay McKenna, center, and Nick Rowe stand with their heads bowed prior to Wednesday?s Class L boys basketball game against Nashua North.

Winnacunnet High School athletic director Carol Dosibrin, far right, reads a commemoration of New Hampshire Hall of Fame basketball coach Jack Ford who passed away Sunday, while current coaches Jay McKenna, center, and Nick Rowe stand with their heads bowed prior to Wednesday's Class L boys basketball game against Nashua North.
[John Carden photo]

Ford Taught Students About More than Basketball

An Opinion

Hampton Union, Friday, February 19, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The way Jack Ford told it, Winnacunnet was the little school with the tiny gym and always, always, always the underdog against the giants of New Hampshire Class L high school boys basketball.

Was it essentially true? Yes. Winnacunnet's enrollment was smaller than Nashua and those Manchester schools.

Was it also bit of an overstatement? You bet.

Ford knew exactly what he was doing. And it worked.

John "Jack" Ford, who died Sunday at age 66, was a master motivator and a master of one-liners. He effectively pushed hundreds of young men in his 31 years at Winnacunnet to play with maximum effort.

If a player had a flaw, he would turn it into a joke, dishing out a nickname like "Fastbreak Killer" or "Tommy Tunnel Vision." Players knew it wasn't vicious. They would laugh, too.

But the point was made.

Ford always made his point, and the English teacher didn't need many words to do it. If he picked up the Portsmouth Herald sports section and found a story and photo about a York High School game but only a few paragraphs about his Warriors, he would playfully but pointedly call the paper the "Southern Maine Herald."

One Hampton Union reporter in 1990 had the audacity not to be familiar with the 3-point line being part of the high school game in her first basketball assignment in New Hampshire. We won't repeat what Ford said here, but let's just say it was brief, profane and sarcastic.

That same reporter later developed a great working relationship with Ford and wrote this week to say how sad she was to hear of his passing.

Ford always made an impression. He won a Class L state championship in 1992, finished runner-up five times and was named Class L Coach of the Year three times.

It's a fitting tribute to the man that the victories aren't what people take the greatest joy in recalling about Ford.

His former players talk about the life lessons, the team's trips to Europe, the favors done for them years after they graduated.

In a ceremony at the WHS boys basketball game on Wednesday night, Adam Edgar, a member of the 1992 title team, recalled Ford's charity work.

"What a lot of people don't know is how hard he worked behind the scenes," said Edgar. "He was instrumental in getting the Winnacunnet Foundation off the ground."

It's common to hear former players say Ford taught them to be a good person and parent.

Ford remains loved by generations of athletes and students. Ford never hesitated to forcefully defend a player he felt was slighted by an opposing coach, referee or reporter.

Ford cared about winning basketball games — a lot. But he cared about his players more.

"We always produced competitive teams and good people," Ford said after retiring from coaching in 2005. "The student-athletes move on to the next step of life and do quite well.

"They understand teamwork, they understand hard work, and turn into good people. I think we accomplished what the goals of those athletic programs are."

As usual, Jack Ford said it best.

[See also, Winnacunnet's Jack Ford dies, leaving legacy on, off court; and
Coach Ford Stepping Down; and
Legendary Send-off for Jack Ford.]