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Colorado potato icon Tom Ford dies at 81

Longtime Colorado potato grower and industry icon Thomas R. Ford died June 25 in East Wenatchee, WA, from an apparent heart attack while traveling to the National Potato Council Summer Meeting in Walla Walla. He was 81.

Born July 18, 1931, in Carmel, CO, Mr. Ford married the former Donna Dee Belt in 1951, and the couple made their home in the San Luis Valley where he farmed potatoes and barley for more than five decades.

tom-fordTom FordA member of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee for more than 40 years, Mr. Ford came on in 1968 as a board member and served as chairman from 1991 through 2009. In 2008 he was inducted into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame, and he served outside agriculture as a member of the Alamosa State Bank Board.

In addition to those business pursuits, Mr. Ford owned three trailer parks and three carwashes. He was an avid fisherman and loved to travel, play golf and spend time with his family.

His influence in the potato industry both inside Colorado and on the national level was significant.

Linda Weyers, assistant director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, said, "Tom was a quiet man who listened carefully before speaking. When he made comments, there was always a lot of thought that went into them, and what he had to say always had impact."

She added, "He was a very caring and very kind person as well."

Mr. Ford is survived by his wife, Donna, of Alamosa; a daughter, Debbie Ford, of Alamosa; sisters, Josie Brewer and Alice Peel, both of Mesa, AZ; and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were scheduled for Saturday, June 29, in Alamosa at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to Hospice del Valle through Rogers Family Mortuary, 205 State Ave., Alamosa, CO 81101.