I only had one wish for my birthday this year and that was to meet Ford Call.
The thing is that we’re both groundhogs (as he said), both born on February 2nd. The main difference is that this year he’s turning 100 and I’ll be a whopping 37.
It’s astounding that Ford is turning 100 this year, on a palindrome! That means you can read it the same forward and backward – 02022020. “Racecar,” “repaper,” and “madam,” are all examples of palindromes. This is the only time in history that our birthday will do this with the day, month and year–and it’s the coolest thing ever that’s he’s turning 100 on this phenomenon!
Anyway, after waiting weeks and weeks for this interview, I finally got to meet the famous Ford Call on Thursday, and the conversation we had will stay with me forever. We talked about his memories and what made life special for him: how he married twice in his life, had five kids and three step daughters, how he farmed, went on a mission and even served in the military…, how he loved and lost, and I realized quickly that he’s leading a life that positively impacts others.
It was humbling hearing about everything he’s gone through, and the strength he must’ve had through all those times….
Ford grew up in Bingham County, and even lived through the Great Depression. “We were all in the same boat,” he said. “We had plenty to eat, but I knew farm commodities were pretty low. I worked with my two older sisters in the beet fields, thinning, hoeing and topping beets.”
Ford also talked about working the land without any equipment and just the skills they’d been given from their father. It was almost magical listening to him explain details about the land and how hard the family worked to succeed, together.
Later, Ford served an LDS mission and after coming back and getting married, he was drafted into the military.
His first son, Michael Call, was born while Ford was serving our country in the Philippines and then Japan. Ford didn’t meet Michael until he was two years old. “Were you excited?” I asked, so eager to hear the rest of his story.
“I sure was!” Ford grinned, this smile that is completely contagious.
After that, Ford turned to farming, like his father before him. “If I could give people advice, I’d tell them to be what they want to be.” When Ford was a little boy he wanted to be a pilot, but when he grew up, his father offered him a great deal on the farm. That’s when Ford knew he wanted to take over the family business. “My dad was a good man. He let it be my decision.” After time passed, Ford ran 180 acres in Wapello, had a dairy (milking 120 head of cattle), and also farmed 640 acres 15 miles west of Blackfoot on Hoff Road.
When Ford had been married 30 years, his beautiful wife (who had been Miss Blackfoot years before), passed away after a battle with cancer. Their youngest son, Mark Call, was only 12 years old at the time.
Ford became a widower at an early age. His two oldest children, Michael and Claudia had already moved out of the house, but he had his three youngest children (Kathleen, Christy Lynn and Mark) living at home.
Ford stayed extremely busy after his wife, Elna, died. He’d loved her so much and it was terribly devastating when she passed. He worked hard, even joined the school board in Firth. One night, Bill Messick, a fellow member of the school board said he had something important to talk with Ford about. It ended up that he wanted Ford to meet a woman who lived in Layton, Utah. Carol Hughs Holland had also lost a spouse.
They first met the day after Thanksgiving and when Ford talked about it, his eyes sort of sparkled. “I was very impressed when she walked into the room.”
The couple was married a little while later coincidentally on February 2nd, Ford’s birthday. When asked if he had a favorite birthday from the past 99, Ford talked about marrying Carol. The two were married for 44 years, until she died on September 1st just over a year ago.
“I loved them both equally,” Ford said of Elna and Carol, explaining that they were both exceptional people. During his first marriage, he said they worked hard to raise a family and provide for their children. Their daughter Kathleen had gotten scarlet fever and chicken pox simultaneously and consequently lost her hearing. This spurred Elna to pursue a career in education, learn everything she could to help Kathleen and eventually attain her master’s degree.
During his second marriage, Ford said he and Carol spent a lot of time together. Her three wonderful daughters (Michelle, Elena and Shawna) were already grown up when Ford married their mother, and Ford said so much of their time, especially in later years, was spent just with the two of them.
Ford has one heck of a story, but I guess what stuck out to me is the feeling he can give a person. He makes people feel valuable...worth something, like he doesn’t judge someone from the cover. Michael, his oldest son confirmed this by saying, “He’s always been kind. He never says anything unkind about anybody and he has a mind like a trap.”
Mark Call, his youngest son said, “He’s always been even-keeled, mild-mannered and kind to a ‘T.’ He’s more forgiving than I think I’d be, too. And he has a strong work ethic.”
As we talked and swapped stories, Ford shared some of his favorite poems. (In fact, his family says he has one such wisdom to offer for almost any occasion.) For his 100th birthday, and this time in his life, Ford quoted Boyd Packer, “The old crow is getting slow. The young crow is not. Of what the young crow does not know, the old crow knows a lot. At knowing things the old crow, is still the young crow’s master. What does the slow old crow not know? —How to go faster. The young crow flies above, below. And rings around the slow, old crow. What does the fast, young crow not know? ….Where. To. go.”
I’ve met a few people who were born on Groundhog’s Day and I’ve been impressed with each one for different reasons (Norma Furniss was one such Blackfoot legend). Ford Call was no exception, and I left knowing our conversation is one I’ll always keep with me.
I guess what I’ll always remember about my 37th birthday was meeting someone who I’d like to be an awful lot like. He told me that life, “Well, it’s the sum total of experiences that define who we are.” Talking with him was the best present I could get. It wasn’t just because I met one of the neatest people ever, but because I know he can see value in people, and that made me somehow see a bit of value in myself….
I like my new 100-year-old friend and now I know why I was so excited for our birthday.
The sum total of Ford Call’s experiences equal a life-changing man who blesses the lives of all he meets; I only hope that I can say the same, someday.
Happy birthday, Ford. YOU are one of the good ones.