Cover photo for Charles Richard Ford's Obituary
Charles Richard Ford Profile Photo
1931 Charles 2024

Charles Richard Ford

July 9, 1931 — May 22, 2024

Charles Richard Ford, Jr., devoted husband and father, dedicated teacher,

humanitarian and self-guided scholar, died quietly in his apartment in the Montecito

community in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Wednesday, May 22. He was 92.

He had been coping with advancing COPD since moving to Santa Fe in 2022.

Charles – known to family members for decades as Dick, and more recently as Charlie

– had been a constant, loving companion to his wife, Brydie, for 66 years before she

died in 2021 in Ormond Beach, Florida. He relished the fact that he then moved to an

address on the old Rt. 66 in New Mexico, where he had relocated to be near his

daughter, Heather B. Herd, of Rowe, NM.

Charlie was born in Washington, DC, on July 9, 1931. His father was a U.S. foreign

service officer then stationed in Spain, and his mother Mildred Caroline Ford (later

Bigelow) had returned stateside so he could be born in the U.S. The first words he

spoke were Spanish; he recalled that he rarely saw his parents and was raised by his

Spanish-speaking nannies. He would later teach junior high school Spanish for more

than three decades in the Caldwell-West Caldwell school system in New Jersey.

As the child of a foreign service officer, he spent much of his boyhood overseas –

Seville, Spain; Montreal, Canada; Buenos Aires, Argentina – before moving to

Englewood, NJ following his parents' divorce and mother's re-marriage to Prescott

Bigelow, who became Dick's devoted step-father.

Dick graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, after spending three

years at the Vermont Academy in Saxton's River, VT. He went on to study theatre and

engineering at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

(Recently he enjoyed hearing that a chum of his from those days, Oscar-winning

costume designer Ann Roth, had made a cameo appearance in Barbie.) He left college

after two years to join the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, serving most of his four

years at Kirknewton AFB just north of Edinburgh, Scotland, where, as a member of the

USAF Security Services, he spent 12 hours a day scanning the radio waves for Russian

pilots. He had learned Russian at the military language school in Monterey, California,

which contributed to his lifelong interest in foreign language.

While in Edinburgh, he met a young kindergarten teacher from London named Margaret

Bridie Heaps (later "Brydie"), while rooming with her brother Alan. The two spent hours

roaming the Pentland Hills outside the city, fell quickly in love, and married on April 7,

1955. Two years later they had the first of their two children, Robert Alan, before

returning to the States. Dick continued his college education at Rutgers University in

New Brunswick, NJ – after briefly flirting with the idea of taking up chicken farming in

Canada. Before he graduated from Rutgers, the second of his two children, Heather

Bridie, was born.

He taught high school briefly in Metuchen, NJ, then from 1963 to 1969 at the Leelanau

Schools in Glen Arbor, Michigan, before settling into teaching Spanish, English and

reading at Grover Cleveland Junior High in West Caldwell, NJ. The family resided in

nearby Lake Hiawatha.

Dick and Brydie took up square dancing in their 50s and for many years served as

officers in the Lakeland Squares in Mountain Lakes, NJ. Dick also served in various

capacities at the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Montclair, NJ, though his evolving

personal philosophy eventually led him away from Christian Science.

In 2000, following their lengthy, full teaching careers, the two moved to Bear Creek, a

retirement community in Ormond Beach, Florida, to be near Dick's two sisters – Nena

Vreeland and Mary Bettle – and to fulfill their long-held dream of living by the Atlantic

Ocean. They spent hours walking and sitting by the beach and the serenely beautiful

Halifax River, and developed a small community of friends, first at Bear Creek and later

at Bishop's Glen in Holly Hill.

Well into his 60s, and before leaving New Jersey, Charlie began a self-guided dive into

scholarship that would continue throughout the rest of his life. He read widely in ancient

history, early Christianity, paleo-anthropology, and evolutionary studies. He was

fascinated by the cosmos, and one book that never left his coffee table was Galaxies,

by Timothy Ferris.

Charlie was a strong believer in civil rights, dating back to the early 1960s. Later in life,

his advocacy extended to LGBTQ+ rights, and along with much of America he

celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage in 2015.

He loved connecting with people from all walks of life and particulary enjoyed the

caregivers at the Montecito independent and assisted living community, where he spent

the last two years of his life. He embraced them as family and took great pleasure in

regularly speaking Spanish again.

In his last couple of years, after the passing of his beloved Brydie, while deeply

mourning her loss, he remained upbeat, often joyous, surrounded by her paintings, his

music – classical, smooth jazz, country, and a late-blossoming love affair with the

Beegees – enjoying regular visits by Heather and Bob, and long snuggles with his

tuxedo cat, Wendy.

Charlie is survived son Bob and his wife Amy Herzberg; daughter Heather Brydie Herd

and her husband Stewart Herd; sister Natalie Babson; cousin Mary Barton and her wife

Cindy Lindstrom; and three cherished nieces: Catherine Elizabeth Bettle and her

daughter Danielle Elizabeth Bettle, and son and daughter-in-law, Dennis James and

Kristen Pietrowicz Reminder and their two girls Lillian and Abigail; Patricia Joan Mauro

and her partner Steve Sassa and her daughters Kendall Patricia Mauro and Nicole

Alexandra Mauro; and Mimi Vreeland and her daughter Max Balch.

Charlie never submitted to the idea of death, referring, two-thirds seriously, one-third

tongue-in-cheek, to "being on my 20-year plan." He often quoted poet Dylan Thomas'

line, "Do not go gentle into that good night."

In the end, he did go gentle. As his friend and caregiver Nicole reported, when she

popped in to see him in the early morning hours of May 22, he woke up. He smiled and

raised his hand for a fist bump before closing his eyes and, very shortly thereafter,

breathing his last breath.

A simple celebration of Charlie's life was held at the Montecito on May 28. He loved well

and was well loved. He will be sorely missed be all who knew him.+--

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