Woodrow Wilson Ford, 84, mechanic, bluebird enthusiast

March 15, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Woodrow Wilson Ford, a noted bluebird enthusiast who traveled the fields and byways of Harford County putting up homemade birdhouses, died Sunday of a heart attack at the Bel Air Convalescent Center. He was 84.

A retired mechanic, Mr. Ford devoted the last 26 years of his life to building birdhouses in the basement workshop of his Churchville home. He put the birdhouses on trees, fence posts and poles from his back yard to Bel Air.

"He must have built somewhere from 6,000 to 7,000 boxes, and they're all over Harford County," said Spike Updegrove, a biology teacher at C. Milton Wright High School. Students there help maintain 60 of the houses.

"He has them over at the Aberdeen Proving Ground and even at Elk Neck State Park," Mr. Updegrove said. "He was a naturalist all the way and loved those little birds."

Mr. Ford would sometimes stop his truck to pick up a road kill so that he could later feed the carcass to some of the birds.

"He'd take it home and feed it to the turkey vultures," Mr. Updegrove said. "You don't find too many people like that."

Mr. Ford began building the boxes in 1971 after a heart attack forced him into a less strenuous lifestyle.

He retired as a motor mechanic in 1969 from Aberdeen Proving Ground, where he had worked after retiring from the Air Force in 1961.

He had enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940 and served during World War II as a mechanical crew chief.

After serving in Japan during the occupation and later during the Korean War, he returned to the United States and was assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, where he worked until his retirement from the military.

"He could always pull a pair of pliers or a spark plug from his pocket and repair or modify anything," said his daughter, June F. Mullhausen of Churchville.

Mr. Ford was a talented woodworker and spent hours nailing, sawing and drilling birdhouses in his basement. He used scrap lumber and shingles, leftover materials friends gave him from construction work, as components of his birdhouses.

He gave the houses to anyone who asked for one.

Like a happy, yet fussy innkeeper, Mr. Ford cleaned the houses, chased away any winged interlopers he considered to be "opportunists" and monitored the birds. He once estimated that he had about 55 percent occupancy in his houses.

When the Harford County Bird Club honored him for his work, he declined to attend the dinner, declaring he didn't want the publicity.

"He walked the fields taking care of the boxes until 1992, when he started slowing down because of leg problems, but continued making the houses," his daughter said.

Mr. Ford was born in Perryman, the ninth of 11 children. He grew up on Spesutie Island, the upper Chesapeake Bay island that was favored by financier J. P. Morgan, who maintained a hunting and fishing lodge there during the 1930s. In 1941, the government took over the island, which today is part of Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"His parents were farmers, and he had an idyllic life growing up fishing, crabbing and hunting," Mrs. Mullhausen said. "It was how they put food on the table.

"They used to have to row across the Spesutie Narrows to go to a one-room schoolhouse and during the winters walked across the ice and stayed in Aberdeen all week while they attended school."

He graduated from Aberdeen High School in 1930 and worked on the farm until he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was married in 1950 to the former Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell, who died in 1974.

Todd Holden, a Bel Air photographer Mr. Ford came to know during his bluebird perambulations, said, "Whether we were birding, crabbing or walking in the fields, there was never a dull moment when you were around him. He was endlessly fascinating."

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Tarring-Cargo Funeral Home, 333 S. Parke St., Aberdeen.

He also is survived by three sons, Charles Simmons of Bel Air, Paul W. Ford of Frederick and Michael Ford of Stansbury Park, Utah; a brother, Donald S. Ford of Preston; and five grandchildren.

Valerie Pulley-Jones, 41, auditor for state

Valerie Pulley-Jones, an auditor for the state and a lifelong Baltimore area resident, died Wednesday of cancer at Sinai Hospital. She was 41.

Mrs. Pulley-Jones, who was Pulley-Jones born and raised in Northeast Baltimore, had been an auditor for the state since 1989.

She graduated from Western High School in 1973 and received a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Morgan State University in 1977. She was qualified as a certified public accountant from the University of Baltimore in 1979 and received a master's degree in finance from Morgan State in 1989.

The former Valerie Pulley married Gregory Jones in 1987 and settled in Randallstown.

She was a longtime member at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, 1801 E. Preston St., where services are scheduled for 11 a.m. today.

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