Sunday, June 2, 2013

In Memoriam for my Mother Venessa Standish Ford

Since April 19 I've been grieving on the passing of my mother--Venessa Standish Ford.  As part of the process of remembering I've created several FACEBOOK ALBUMS and posted many messages about her (and my father's) lives as missionaries and teachers for over 48 years in Latin America.  In the process I heard from hundred's of people who knew her, studied piano or sang with her in choirs she directed, or were taught by her and my father in the various schools they helped found in Central America--and they many Latinos who knew her at the Spanish SDA Church In Loma Linda CA where she spent her retirement years.

Below I list links to some of those albums online and reprint a copy of the BIO that was created and shared at her Memorial Service.  She was a great lady--positive, always smiling, loyal, hardworking, and every hopeful!  We will miss her and I will be eternally grateful to have had her as a mother!

Mom, on her graduation from Walla Walla College (University)
on June 6, 1943--she was a beautiful lady and always had that great smile!

Mom with her first Great-Granddaughter Celeste at Christmas 2012
in Loma Linda California!  She was so proud to have met Celeste and
we're thankful they met several times!  Great memories!
(That's me--Bob Ford--in the background at the computer).

  1. Ford's in El Salvador
  2. Frisco SDA School and later CEA in Pena Blanca, Yojoa Honduras
  3. Roatan Photos: French Harbor, Paya Bay, Jonesville, West End
  4. Remembering Bonacca (Guanaja)--the Bay Islands
  5. Fords, Standishes, Larsons, & Moors--A Century in Latin America
  6. Timeline Photos

10/22/1920 – 4/19/2013

 Venessa Standish Ford’s maternal and paternal ancestors were descendants of strong New England stock going back to the Mayflower.  She was born October 22, 1920 in Loma Linda California to Horace Edward Standish and Edith Violet Standish.

Sometime in 1922, the great Adventist pioneer educator E. A. Sutherland was visiting the White Memorial Hospital and came to know Venessa’s parents.  He invited them to join him in the founding of Madison College, located about ten miles east of Nashville.  Horace Standish became the chief builder, and Edith served as a nurse in the Sanitarium. In 1923 their second daughter Juanita was born.   It is in Madison that “Nessa” and “Nita” have fond memories of life on the Cumberland River, and had childhood friends that included Neal Wilson, who was a couple of years older than Venessa.  Neal would later become the President of the General Conference of SDA.  In 1937 the Standish family returned to Loma Linda, CA. During this second time in Loma Linda, Venessa went to La Sierra (then a Junior College) and then on to Walla Walla College in 1940; Juanita graduated from Loma Linda Academy the same year.  

Venessa graduated from the teacher training course at Walla Walla College on June 6, 1943, and that same afternoon she married Robert Elden Ford.  Elden was the eldest remaining child of the SDA missionary pioneers to South America--Orley and Lillian Ford--of whom the book “These Fords Still Run” was written.  That summer for their honeymoon, they lived in a fire lookout tower in the Blue Mountains of Washington, and were planning to go back to Walla Walla for Elden’s final school year.  But in late 1943 the Inter-American Division heard that Elden was now married, so they sent a call for them both to work in the Bay Islands of Honduras. So off they went to Central America and set up their first home in Guanaja, in the Bay Islands of Honduras.  In Guanaja, Elden and Venessa started a 10-grade day school with the help of two Honduran Adventist teachers (1943-1945).  Soon after, they were asked to establish a boarding school in the mountains of Guanaja, but it became clear that it would be much better to have the boarding school on the mainland of Honduras where it could serve all three islands, as well as others in the region. During those two years in the islands, their eldest son Bob was born on the mainland in Puerto Castilla, at a US Lend-Lease Navy base located there during World War II.  The new boarding academy was started on a large farm, and eventually grew to 2,000 acres of the very best lowland tropical farmland near the present town of Frisco II, in Atlantida, Honduras.   The first year Elden was both the Principal and Business Manager.  During these years in Frisco, during Venessa's second pregnancy with Kathleen, she went to stay with Orley and Lillian Ford in El Salvador, in order to be closer to medical care at the time of delivery.

After four years in Frisco, in 1951, they took their first furlough and Elden finished his college degree at what is now La Sierra University in Riverside, CA.  After graduation in 1952 Elden and Venessa were called to the Adventist College in Alajuela, Costa Rica, where their third child Pat was born. In 1955 they were called back to the Bay Islands where this time Elden served as Pastor of eleven churches scattered across the three main islands. All the churches had to be reached by water, so they purchased a 24-foot inboard motor launch, which they named the Herald-II.  During those years they had another furlough to the US where their fourth child, Dan, was born in Glendale, CA.  In 1960, after five years in the Islands, they went to British Honduras where Elden served as Mission President.  There they experienced Hurricane Hattie which destroyed nine of their churches. In 1962 they were called to Nicaragua where they spent two years pastoring districts along the Caribbean coast.  They also spent a year pastoring in Jinotepe on the western side of the country, and then several years in the capital, Managua, where Venessa directed the Voice of Prophecy office and Elden served as Mission President. 

After several years of working in Nicaragua, they were asked to return to their original careers in educational work. They returned to study at Pacific Union College in Angwin, CA, where they both earned their Master’s degrees in Education. Upon their return to Latin America, they first helped expand the new boarding school CEA (Centro Educacional Adventista), in Peña Blanca, Honduras (1970-1974). At CEA, Venessa founded and directed a teacher training school (called a Normal School in those days). In addition to running the Normal School, she led the choir, taught piano lessons, and was a mentor to hundreds of youth. During those years, Elden was the Pastor and Bible teacher at CEA. 

In 1974, they were called to move once again to Belize (previously known as British Honduras) to build up the Adventist Vocational College (AVC) that had been severely damaged by another Hurricane.  After five years in Belize, Elden was called to be the director of Education for the El Salvador Mission, with the specific goal of establishing a secondary school for Salvadoran Adventist youth. He secured funding in part through USAID, and in a couple of years, founded ECAS (Escuela de Capacitacion Adventista Salvadoreña) as an agricultural-vocational school.  The location in El Salvador allowed them to also care for Elden’s aging mother, Lillian Ford, who still lived in her home in San Salvador.  In July, 1983, the 12-grade boarding academy ECAS was opened, and functioned right through the height of the 1980s Civil War.  In July, 2013, ECAS will celebrate 30 years of service. 

When Elden and Venessa officially retired in 1987 they came to Loma Linda for six months to visit their children, and establish a residence in Loma Linda.  After a short stay, they returned as “volunteers” at ECAS until 1992, when they retired for the last time and returned to Loma Linda California.  In all, Elden and Venessa Ford had worked 48 years in Central America. Even in retirement they continued to solicit donations to help worthy students and meet other needs of the school in El Salvador.  They became founding members of the Loma Linda Spanish Church where Venessa continued her life-long custom of serving as music and Dorcas leader, and mentor to many youth.  

During all of the moves, and living in the various countries in Central America, Venessa filled in wherever she was needed at each post: as a Sabbath School teacher for children, working with the Dorcas Society, often serving as Voice of Prophecy Secretary, frequently as choir leader, and almost always the one who played the piano (or her accordion when a piano was unavailable).  In the home she was a loving and caring mother and teacher for those of us who did Home Study, and a loving and supportive wife to our father.  Venessa passed away April 19, 2013.  She is survived by her four children, Robert Elden Ford, Jr. (of Rockville UT), Kathleen Ford (of Bend, OR), Patricia Ford (of Loma Linda, CA), Daniel Ford (of Seattle, WA), four grandsons, a great granddaughter, and her dear sister Juanita Gosse McGann.

Thanks for all the well wishes from everyone in the USA as well as hundreds of contacts over the years in Central America!

Robert (Bobby) Ford
Rockville Utah 
June 1, 2013


  1. God granted me the opportunity to cross path with Pr. Ford and Vanessa Ford, the two most beautiful individuals I have ever met. Having been at ECAS myself, I received many wonderful advices by both of them and I can honestly say that my greatest goal is to be able to hug them one day in heaven and thank them for everything they did for the youth in El Salvador and other Latin American Country.
    May God bless all of us who had the chance to meet the Fords and as a result became better individuals, better christians.
    Gracias Pastor Ford y Vanessa Ford por su bello ejemplo de verdaderos hijos de nuestro Dios.

    Elmer Samuel Huezo

  2. Thanks so much Elmer for the kind words. Sorry for not responding sooner...I've been away and taking a hiatus from my blog. But do keep in touch. We hope to followup with some support to ECAS in memory of my parents. Keep in touch and hopefully you and others who were their students can also help.

    My best, Robert Ford (son of Pastor Elden Ford and Venessa Ford)