Following is an excerpt of a news article by David Wilkie written in 1953. The article includes a letter written by Mrs. Ford to a friend the first Christmas following her husband s passing. I thought considering the tumultuous events of his remarkable life, this was a simple and poignant account of his last moments, dying in the arms of his loving and committed wife.
After the article is an account of his passing written in 2003.
"A GIANT PASSES, AN ERA ENDS" Henry Ford's death sparks tributes from the world he put on wheels
Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20030616/SUB/306160808#ixzz2V1B9YFc8
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June 16, 2003 - 12:01 am ET
America's leading industrialist died in a cold, dark, stone fortress that was buffeted by high winds and racked by rain.
The date was April 7, 1947. Floodwaters had ravaged Dearborn, Mich., leaving much of the area without power. Fair Lane, Henry Ford's mansion, was not spared. The only heat was from fireplaces; the only illumination from oil lamps and candles.
The circumstances were not unlike those of his birth 83 years earlier on a farm in Dearborn.
With him at the end was Clara, his wife of 59 years. No children were present; their only child, Edsel, had died in 1943. No grandchildren or other relatives were there. The storm had knocked out Fair Lane's telephones so no one could be summoned.
The automotive pioneer died just before midnight. Death came swiftly and quietly as the result of a cerebral hemorrhage.
He was mourned like the important person that he was.
One hundred thousand people in lines stretching for blocks passed Ford's bier at Greenfield Village in Dearborn to bid him farewell. The wheels of the auto industry came to a halt in tribute to Ford, the man who had created so much automotive history.
National leaders joined automotive greats to express their sympathy. Among them was President Harry Truman, whose message to the Ford family said in part: "In the sorrow which has come with such sudden and unexpected force, I offer to you and to all who mourn with you this assurance of deepest sympathy."
Perhaps the greatest accolade to Henry Ford was one of the briefest: He put the world on wheels. Not only through his ubiquitous Model T (which was the People's Car decades before the Volkswagen was conceived). His $5-a-day wage made it possible for common folk to own a car, and his low prices (as low as $260) made it even more possible.
Active to the end
Henry Ford was active to the end. He had been in excellent spirits over the weekend. On Easter Sunday, April 6, Ford and his wife visited relatives in Dearborn. The weather that day was atrocious. A heavy rain caused the usually placid Rouge River to overflow, putting the Fair Lane power plant out of action.
The next day, Ford's farm superintendent drove him to Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's outdoor museum of Americana, to inspect flood damage. That area was dangerously close to the Rouge River, but Ford was happy to find that nothing had been harmed.
At dinner he talked about plans for a 100-mile trip the next day to inspect flood damage at other Ford enterprises. He retired at 9 p.m. as usual.
At about 11:15 p.m., Clara heard Ford call, and she hurried to him. He told her that his head ached and his throat was dry. She gave him a glass of water and then, because the telephone was not working, she sent Rosa Buhler, her maid, to Robert Rankin, the family chauffeur, in his lodgings above the garage, to tell him to get a doctor. Rankin drove to the Ford Engineering Laboratories, half a mile away, and called Dr. John Mateer of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
When the maid returned to the bedroom, she heard Clara say, "Henry, speak to me." Ford's breathing seemed to have stopped. "What do you think of it?" Clara asked Buhler. "I think," the maid replied, "Mr. Ford will be leaving us."
When the doctor arrived at the house at around midnight, Ford was dead.
What a sad story.
Henry led a magnificent life. Not every moment was acceptable to every person on earth. Henry's life is a triumphant story.
Anyone's death is a dissapointing story to those who mourned his loss.
Henry was a very interesting, and flawed person. We all are. While Henry's business life was triumphant, his personal life may not have met that standard. I doubt that any of us could pass the personal scrutiny that someone like Henry lived. (remember I know quite a few of you). Henry was active to the end. I hope I can do the same. If I have any say in my life I want to pass just after driving a T with some good friends with a smile on my face.
Charley, Royce and Paul,
Good points. When I saw this I thought it very touching. I didn't understand why in Clara's letter she said "as they read by candlelight". Then, finding the 2003 description, I realized it was due to a power failure.
Anyway, I thought with Memorial Day having just occurred, and Henry Ford's 150th birthday approaching, it was a fitting piece to post.
Enjoy your summer,
Thanks for sharing
Thanks for sharing Rob...............Gary Hagen
We should all be so lucky to be in a full frame of mind till the end. Looking forward to the next day of events. Scott