Phil Ford
Phil Ford

Phil Ford

Phil brought with him to AFRH a very interesting story. Shortly after he decided to quit school in the middle of 10th grade due to what he calls an adolescent adjustment reaction; (he hated school and refused to adjust to its rigors!), he convinced his mother military life is what he wanted and she signed the papers. He enlisted shortly after his 17th birthday, choosing the Navy to be sure of an overhead to keep him dry, a deck under his feet and a bunk to sleep in.  He saw the world as a part of Unitas XVII, an arduous deployment to assist in the training of the Navies of South America.  He saw duty in the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, Straits of Magellan and Panama Canal, and with the Navies of seven countries.

Injuries incurred forced his early departure from a career he so enjoyed. His grandfather told him he had a choice; feel sorry for himself or suck it up and get on with life. Taking his grandfather’s advice, he enrolled at Penn State; his first Thanksgiving as a civilian he visited his former E-9 mentor in Florida. Forewarned that getting sand in his shoes while visiting in Florida would result in not returning north, truer words were never spoken He transferred to a college in Florida (earning a perfect semester GPA of 0.0 since he didn’t take his finals!). He earn his Associate and Bachelor’s Degree from Webber College in Babson Park, FL. Upon graduation he became employed with a restaurant chain at a store in Tallahassee, FL; where his dual, lifelong, second career began.

Having joined a fraternity in college he took up residence at the chapter house in Tallahassee and began his lifelong ambition to work in the food service industry and began his seemingly 24 hour work days. During the day he managed a restaurant and at night and weekends he was in residence helping young men help themselves as the fraternity’s Chapter Resident Advisor.

He was responsible for operation of the food service operation, upkeep and maintenance of the structure, budgeting and allocating funds for maximum efficiency. Being innovative he found alternative revenue sources to supplement the dues paid by the members. Phil seems to always have been an out of the box thinker and bought novel approaches and creative solutions to financial dilemmas presented by the numerous (7) fraternity chapters he lived in.

Phil was offered a position as health inspector by the State of Florida and became a regulator; obtaining certification as a Registered Sanitarian as well as a Fire Safety Inspector. From here he left the fraternity housing gig and state employment and became the first Director of Sanitation for American Hawaii Cruises with approval of the FDA. Phil was directly responsible for two ship’s receiving a Certificate of Sanitation from the FDA for the 1st time. He was; an instrumental part in writing the FDA approved SOP for the ships, oversight of over 350 crew members carrying out their duties in the dining and lodging portions of the vessel, and also part of the team that oversaw the total overhaul of the ships in dry-dock. He was equal in rank to the Master (Captain) of the ship. His Naval and health department experiences were a major factor in his success in Hawaii, living in Waikiki and aboard the Constitution and the Independence.

Phil returned to the East Coast and obtained his Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration while at Auburn (War Eagle!), where he had again taken a position as Resident Advisor. Shortly after graduation he became a professional property manager of dormitories and apartment complexes (high rise and garden style) in Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Missouri, Florida, and New Mexico.

In March 2013 Phil became a resident at AFRH-W. In August 2013, the call of the fraternity was too much and he returned to in-house living for one last semester. (After 20 plus years of in-house fraternity living he concluded the men were staying 18 -22 and he wasn’t getting younger). He was responsible for overseeing the conversion of a one story restaurant into a two story fraternity house, literally living in a construction zone. Walls were relocated, kitchen and dining areas totally renovated, and a second story added for 32 undergraduates to call home. (friend “spfinga” on Face Book to see the pictures).

An in depth part of ‘his story’ would include being a licensed Foster Parent (adopting one of the men), a manager of privatized military housing at Fort Polk, LA, and as primary caregiver for a friend’s mother in end-stage Alzheimer’s the last 2 years of her life. Phil’s diverse experiences have carried over to his time here at AFRH-W. He volunteers as a sponsor for new residents, escorts residents to medical appointments, is the secretary for the RAC, Vice Chair of the Master Plan Committee, and also Recorder for the Community Access Project (a newly formed entity of the AFRH-W and Friends of the Soldiers Home master plan committees.

He downplays health issues that were also a significant part of his decision to retire and come to AFRH-W.  Phil seems to live by the motto “If we don’t take care of each other then no one will take care of us”. He happily assists anyone in any reasonable undertaking and is doing his best to ensure that AFRH-W is a home that everyone can be proud of. His philosophy of doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do and not the most popular thing is evident in all he does.  If you haven’t heard his cheery “Happy (insert day of week)” then you’re not listening.