In Memoriam: Fran Ford, CAS

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


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Comments (9)
Kim Reinecer
May 23, 2018
I was blessed to have known Fran for over 30 years. He always had a smile on his face and a hug for his friends. He was an icon who will be missed terribly. Thank you, Fran, for all you did to help me in my career. But, I thank you most for your friendship. Prayers continue to lift up Theresa and Fran's family. God Bless.
Chris Sinatra, CAS
May 23, 2018
Fran was a mentor to many, including myself. No single person had more of an impact on my understanding of the sales process than Fran Ford.
Bruce Felber
May 23, 2018
Fran was someone you can always count on for advise and help. It has been a joy to have worked with him while serving PPAI. Fran often gave advise with his down-home nature only and wanted the best for everyone. I will be missed but never forgotten. See you again someday, Fran. Bruce
Lisa Harwood
May 23, 2018
6 years ago I was a new rep to Geiger and met Fran at the PPAI convention. He was so sweet and kind to me. When I told him I had been in the business for 10 years and recently joined Geiger he assured me I made the best decision. I reached out to him on numerous occasions and he answered me immediately always offering to help in any way possible. He so reminded me of my father - a gentle giant. I am so sorry for your loss. He will forever be in my heart, May he live on in your loving memories. G-d Bless. Fondly, Lisa Harwood
George Jackson
May 22, 2018
Fran was one of the best people I ever met. I was blessed to have known him for many years and always pleased to be his friend. He is in a class of his own. The world suffered a loss with his passing. May God Bless his family.
Bob Waldorf
May 22, 2018
Fran Ford and I were the best of friends for many decades. I am sure that many others feel the same way. He was a compassionate, bright, helpful, loyal, active, ambitious person. His ability to reach out to people is legendary. I will miss him in my life and he will always be my Buddy! Love that guy, Bob Waldorf
Arthur Battaglia
May 22, 2018
Sending heartfelt condolences to the entire Ford Family. While I only met Fran a few times, his persona was special, like that of only a few people you will ever meet in a lifetime. May God Bless.
Bob Gray
May 22, 2018
RIP Fran .. THANK YOU far all you did for me in this industry dating back to my IDEA MAN days in the early 80"s. The word NO was not in your vocabulary. G-D bless you and your memory. Theresa , also with those IDEA MAN industry roots.. It was so incredible that your found each other and had these wonderful years together.. never enough !! I feel your sadness. BG
Brad Langton
May 22, 2018
I worked with Fran 17 years ago. To hear him present to distributors was a treat. His ability to capture the room was magical. He connected with everyone. I remember sitting with him as he shared the finer points of the sales process. Oh, he was the best there ever was at this craft.
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