Francis “Fran” Ford, Jr., CAS, president of supplier Castelli, a division of Magnet, LLC, and 2015 PPAI Hall of Fame inductee, passed away Monday after a long fight with cancer.

Ford spent more than 40 years in the promotional products industry starting with his own sporting goods business, Motford, Inc., and then moved to sales and leadership positions with suppliers including Jaffa Company, Martin Company, Lenox Awards, BTS Group and Eight Floor Promotions, including serving as president of J Charles Crystalworks. He also ran his own sales and consulting company, Ford-Howsmon, LLC. From 1995 to 2002 he was president of Castelli, and he rejoined the company as president in December 2012.

He was also a longtime, enthusiastic industry volunteer, starting on the regional level in 1985 and expanding to the national level in 1986. Ford served in a number of PPAI volunteer roles, including as a member of the Awards and International Committees, was a frequent participant in PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.) and was inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2016, he was only the fourth person inducted into the Proforma Hall of Fame.

From 2000 to 2004, he served on the Promotional Products Education Foundation Board of Trustees and was chair in 2003. A dedicated supporter of PPEF, Ford launched the popular PPEF Glen Holt Scholarship Golf invitational in 2014.

Paul Kiewiet, MAS+, executive director of the Michigan Promotional Products Association, who was inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame the same year, recalls his fondest memories of Ford. “Fran epitomized everything that is great about our industry,” he says. “‘Hey Buddy’ was a signature line, and he made everyone feel like a friend and a buddy. His friendship, mentorship and contributions will continue to make our community a reflection of his giving spirit.”

PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, says, “Fran had immense passion for both the industry and, more importantly, the personalities and relationships that make the industry great. He was a kind, generous, funny, charming man, and a fighter right up till the end. We are all fortunate to have had our individual and collective moments with him.”

“Fran was a consummate gentleman and terrific friend,” says PPEF Chair Wayne Greenberg, MAS, president of JB of Florida, Inc., a division of Geiger. “He delighted in helping people, always giving back so much more than we could possibly give him. He had a huge heart, always focusing on others. I will miss him, his smile, his joy and his counsel.”

Longtime friend Greg Muzzillo, founder and owner of Proforma, says, “I was very sad to learn about the passing of Fran Ford. He was a great friend to Vera, me and the Proforma family. He had a very special way of caring about people and our industry. Vera and I will be forever appreciative of his mentorship and friendship. I will always remember the way Fran valiantly fought an unbelievably painful battle with his cancer without complaint. The way he lived his life, loved his family, befriended an entire industry and fought his health battles is a true inspiration.”

When Ford was inducted into the PPAI Hall Fame, he wrapped up his remarks on stage with these words: “When you find yourself in a position to help someone, be happy and feel blessed, because God is answering that person’s prayer through you. Our purpose on earth is not to get lost in the dark but to be a light for others. And I want to thank you for being my light.”

Ford is survived by his wife Theresa Roberts; her three children Tiffany, Lauren, Kenny; brother-in-law Ray Zimmerman; brothers Matthew, Michael, and Jim and his wife Kathleen; sisters, Leslie and her husband Dan Hackett, Lisa and her husband Dub Winn, Patricia and her husband Jim Caler, and Mary; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Services will be held at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, 5045 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, May 30 at 10 am, followed by a celebration of life at the Arizona Country Club, 5668 East Orange Blossom Lane, Phoenix, in the ballroom at 11:15 am. In recognition of his lifetime of service to the industry and his community, in 2017 a group calling itself the Friends of Fran Ford established the PPEF perpetual named scholarship in Ford’s honor. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the scholarship fund here