He continues to hold a part time job, own a cattle farm, and take the occasional vacation, all while maintaining a positive attitude and dry sense of humor. Autobody News reached out to Ford to find out how he does it all, and what we can learn from him.
Q. Were you born in Tyler, TX and have you lived there your whole life?
A. Yes, I was born in Tyler, TX and lived there my whole life, except for the service. I served during WWII for three years and four months.
Q. Where did you work prior to 1999 when you started at Carl Owens Paint & Body?
A. My father opened a rose nursery in 1919, and when my brother and I got out of the service around 1946, we took it over. My dad was only doing wholesale with contracts in Connecticut and Alabama, so we decided to expand. We built cold storages and a warehouse and sold our own products to different customers from the south all the way up to Connecticut. It was going pretty good until my brother died of cancer 28 years ago. The business became too much to handle when it was no longer a partnership, so I had to sell it.
Q. How did you end up working at Carl Owens Paint & Body?
A. After selling the rose nursery, I started to get bored. I began looking for jobs driving trucks--similar to what I did at the nursery--but because I was in my 70s at the time, insurance wouldn't cover me. Finally, 17 years ago, my son-in-law got me a job driving trucks at Carl Owens Paint & Body. Everything was fine until they changed insurance. The next day they called me and said I couldn't drive anymore. They tried to get around it, but the insurance company wouldn't budge. So, that's when I started sweeping the floors and maintaining the restrooms and break rooms. I've been doing that ever since.
Q. Do you maintain your cattle farm by yourself? Are there any other animals on the farm?
A. I raised cattle until 2014. When I first got out of the service, my brother and I shared the farm. Then, a few years ago --I was getting kind of old at that time--I had a big bull I was going to sell, and when I had him in the corral, he knocked the gate over on top of me and jumped over the gate. If he hadn't jumped over it, he would've crushed me to death. Right then and there, my daughter told me I was going to get rid of the cows, because I was too old to mess with them. I still own the farm, but now I lease it out. Besides the cattle, there's one horse on the farm that’s blind in one eye and older than I am.
Q. When and where was your last vacation?
A. I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. for a five-day trip with my daughter, as a guest of Brookshires Grocery Co. I hadn't been on vacation in 17 years and had barely even taken a sick day. I'm a history and politics buff, so I really liked seeing all the monuments and memorials. It was the most enjoyable trip I've ever been on in my life.
Q. Do you have any plans to retire, or are you just taking it day by day?
A. Nope, I'm going to work until I can't anymore. My doctor said that if and when I stop working, that's when things will go wrong; organs will fail and so forth. Someone even said to me the other day that I'll probably die with a broom in my hand.
Q. What advice would you give people who want to live as long as you and continue to be productive?
A. I think I've just been really fortunate. I rarely ever get sick and I don't have any aches or pains. I never smoked or drank; I don't enjoy the taste of beer. I like to stay busy, and I think as long as you're feeling good, you should stay active for as long as you can.
Ford has two children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. After finishing a half day of work, he checks on his cattle farm, where he takes care of any other business that needs his attention.
To learn more about Carl Owens Paint & Body, visit www.carlowenspaint.com.