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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2004

Sugar Ridge: Centenarian s poetry recalls years of memories

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Zelma Ford says she has a lovely garden, preserved and watered with her tears.

“It is the garden of memory that has grown for many a year.”

With a strong voice and keen memory, Mrs. Ford, who celebrated her 100th birthday with a family party over the weekend, recites those and other lines from her collection of poems, verses she penned many years ago.

Mrs. Ford, who lives in Sugar Ridge, a flyspeck-on-the-map between Perrysburg and Bowling Green, recalled that she began writing poems in the 1960s. A family favorite, “A Garden of Memories,” was written in 1969.

“I always liked poetry,” she said.

Some poems have been published, and she earned an Editor s Choice Award from the International Library of Poetry in 2003 and 1997.

Her daughter, Audrey Falls, who has lived with Mrs. Ford for the last two years, submitted the poems for publication.

Many of the poems reflect Mrs. Ford s love of God, family, and country.

Born Zelma Avery on Feb. 21, 1904, in a log cabin in Wood County, she quips she was born the day before George Washington.

Zelma was just a little girl when her father was killed.

“He was blown up by dynamite when he was clearing land,” she said. There were two boys and two girls in her family, and they lived with their mother on a 40-acre farm.

“We had pigs on the farm so we could have meat. We had a cow so we could have milk. We raised a garden and raised some chickens,” she said.

Mrs. Ford remembers walking to school.

“It was a little brick schoolhouse. I walked a mile to school in Sugar Ridge,” she said.

She went to high school in Bowling Green, but her family moved to Toledo, where she attended Waite High School.

In 1925, she married Clarence Ford, a farmer who also worked in a local stone quarry. “We had a farm near Luckey,” she said. He died in 1982.

The couple had five children, and four of them survive.

In addition to taking care of her family, Mrs. Ford worked at the former Heinz ketchup complex near Bowling Green. She also was employed at the post office-grocery store in Sugar Ridge. On election days, she was a poll worker in Middleton Township.

A member of Sugar Ridge Community Church, she has lived in Sugar Ridge since 1936. Here she enjoyed working in her garden, growing strawberries to sell for seven cents a quart. She wrinkles her nose and shakes her head at the thought of strawberries today. “They don t taste like the berries we had on the farm,” she said.

Mrs. Falls said that her mother was an avid gardener and cook. “She made chili sauce and her own ketchup, plus jams and jellies, 100 to 200 quarts each year,” said Mrs. Falls.

It wasn t all work and no play through the years, however. At times Mrs. Ford took off her apron and left the kitchen to travel. She s been to Hawaii and Arizona, and last year spent time in Missouri. She recently trekked to Detroit.

Her vision limits her activities somewhat, and she no longer can write poems. “My eyes are bad,” she said, but she sits close to the television set to watch court TV shows and crime shows. “I like murder mysteries. I like to figure out what happened.”

Although the Ford family had the first TV set in Sugar Ridge, Mrs. Ford doesn t want anything to do with some of the newfangled technology.

“I don t believe in that computer business,” she said firmly.

Computers, she said, are being misused, particularly when it comes to using computers for school work.

“If kids don t know the answers, they go on the computer and get the computer s answers. They ve got teachers. That s what teachers are for,” she said.

And don t get her started about the gazillion dollars spent to send roving cameras to Mars.

“I think it s crazy,” she said. Why on earth, she wonders, would we go to Mars?

Son Clarence and his wife, Dolores, live next door, and Mrs. Ford s daughter Shirley Fox lives in Millersport, Ohio. Mrs. Ford s daughter Mary Bertelson of Wyoming, Mich., died in 1995.

More than 100 relatives gathered Sunday at the American Legion hall in Luckey to celebrate Mrs. Ford s birthday. She has 19 grandchildren, 46 great grandchildren, and 7 great-great grandchildren.

As her birthday approached, she said she wasn t wishing for any special presents. “I already have everything I want, everything I need,” she said.



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