Mrs. Mildred Tucker Ford has been selected by the Belmont Historical Society as the Distinguished Citizen of the Year for 2015. This award is given annually to a deceased individual who has made a significant contribution to Belmont and the surrounding area.
Mrs. Ford certainly fits the description. The award will be presented to Mrs. Ford’s family October 18,2015 at 2:30 PM in the Historical Society’s Museum with a reception to follow. The Museum is located at 40 Catawba Street, Belmont, NC. Friends and acquaintances of Mrs. Ford are invited to attend.
In the early 1950’s Mrs. Ford, along with Edith Coppedge and some other Belmont residents became concerned over the plight of the less fortunate and started a city wide campaign to address their needs. They consulted churches, school administrators, and social agencies to identify who needed food, clothing, medicine or money. Items collected were housed wherever they could find space – basement of the Bank of Belmont, churches, and homes. While they worked diligently year round, they made a special effort during the holidays to make sure not a single family in Belmont went without a Christmas.
The early efforts by Mrs. Ford and others laid the foundation for the current Belmont Community Organization, often referred to as the BCO. Mildred Ford became the first Executive Director of the BCO; and, due to her diligence, it flourishes today continuing to provide food, clothing, furniture, medicine, and utilities to people who need emergency help. When Mrs. Ford was 85, the organization finally obtained its own building large enough to house all its services. The building was named in her honor and a portrait of her adorns the wall.
From the beginning, Mildred Ford quickly emerged as the leader of the community organization and her name became synonymous with it. She became the person individuals called when they were in need or knew of someone else who needed assistance. She responded day or night and continued to work tirelessly throughout her life until she was no longer physically able to do so. She was very humble, quick to give credit to others, and was often embarrassed by the praise she received.
Attributes used to describe Mildred include: compassionate, kind, an adorable lady, very gracious lady, genteel spirit, a soft heart for people (especially mill workers) and a smile for everybody. A volunteer who worked with her described her as “The Mother Teresa of Belmont” and a great lady who never sought gratification for herself. She felt “helping our fellow man is what the Christian life is all about and the Belmont Community Organization is my way of helping out.”
Her favorite Bible verse was Matthew 25:40 “And the King will answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” She credited her mother with teaching her the importance of kindness and felt she learned love of the community from her father. As a child she accompanied her mother to mill villages when she took food baskets to families in need.
Mrs. Ford was also involved in many other organizations including Department of Social Services, Board of Visitors Sacred Heart College, Belmont Beautification Club, and American Legion Auxiliary. She received many awards, among them, recipient of Belmont’s first Citizen of the Year Award, Belmont Professional Women’s Club Woman of the Year (1962), and honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree from Sacred Heart College in 1977.
Mildred Tucker Ford was born in Belmont in a house on East Catawba Street in 1913. Her father was superintendent of the Chronicle Mill at the time and later superintendent of the Crescent and National Mill. He was the Mayor of Belmont when he died and Mildred was only 12 years old at the time. After his death, she and her mother moved to a house on South Central Avenue. When she married, her husband Paul Ford bought the house and they raised their children there. In her later years, she moved to Ohio to be with her daughter and remained active until shortly before her death in 2013 at the age of 100.