Joan Stuart Butler Ford 1933-2021 | News, sports, jobs

SAN DIEGO – Reverend Canon Joan Stuart Butler Ford, 88, a much loved and respected mother, grandmother, great grandmother and Canon for Communications at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego, died Monday, December 6, 2021.

She was born on October 16, 1933, to Bowe Smiley Butler, whom the family affectionately called “Bosie”, and Joseph Green Butler III.

Joan was the great-granddaughter of steel industrialist and founder of the Butler Institute of American Art Joseph G. Butler Jr. Her father-in-law was the Honorable Judge John Willard Ford, founder of the Ford Nature Center in Mill Creek Park.

Originally from Youngstown, Joan moved to North Conway, NH with her mother, where Joan became an accomplished skier. As a teenager, Joan would ride up the mountain with Sno-Cat drivers she knew to ski outside of opening hours. Even in her 50s, Joan was an avid skier who could whiz down any mountain with impeccable style, grace, and athleticism, her skis so close together that they chattered against each other.

Joan graduated from Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts when she was 16 years old. She attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and after two years she traveled to Austria with Bosie for six months and went skiing. Shortly after her return, she married Thomas Willard Ford, her former neighbor from Youngstown, and they lived in Youngstown for a short time. In 1955, Joan and Tom got into their car, “headed west,” as they often told their offspring, and looked for a new place to stay. They settled in the San Francisco Bay Area and built a house in the Portola Valley on San Francisco’s Lower Peninsula in 1958.

Joan raised her four children and volunteered for the Junior League among other organizations as Tom was building a very successful real estate development and management company. Every February in February, Joan would take her kids out of school – there was no “ski week” back then – and take them skiing at Lake Tahoe resorts. In 1974, just turned 40, Joan decided to go back to school. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Sociology, all from Stanford University. After completing her doctorate, she founded a company that did research in the then still young field of artificial intelligence.

In her 50s, Joan found her true calling, which she later referred to as a priestess in the Episcopal Church, a calling she imagined from her youth. She received a Master of Divinity from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkley, California in 1990. She was ordained a priest of Episcopal Church at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco in 1990, where she lived and subsequently led a ward for several years.

In the early 1990s, Joan’s marriage ended and she moved in with her close friend, Pastor Dorothy Reed Curry. In the late 1990s, Joan and Dorothy moved to London, where Joan worked as the communications director for the Anglican Community and was instrumental in building the community’s online presence worldwide. She and Dorothy returned to the United States in 1999 and settled in San Diego, the city they took home in the mild climate they loved. Joan worked as a priestess at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where she was named Canon for Communications in 2000.

Joan and Dorothy traveled all over the world, including Cuba in 2000, to carry out a needs analysis on behalf of a fundraising department of the Anglican Church, the so-called Compass Rose Society. Joan devoted herself to learning Spanish and continued to study Spanish at a distance until her death. Occasionally she assisted in Spanish language services in the cathedral. Joan was also a founding member of Vida Joven de Mexico, a San Diego nonprofit formerly known as Dorcas House, which funds fundraising to house, care, and raise children at an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.

All her life, Joan enjoyed traveling to Squirrel Island, a summer colony of about 100 cottages off the coast of Maine. Her great-grandfather, Joseph Green Butler Jr. invested in the island in 1873, and the family has been present ever since. Joan spent the summers of her youth on the island, where tennis, boating, and walks in the quiet of a Maine forest or along a rocky shoreline are popular pastimes. Joan’s mother spent six months on the island each year until she died in 1987 at the age of 83.

Joan was extremely knowledgeable and forward thinking about technology. For example, she did banking online well before the start of the new century and was active on social media until the last days of her life. She also willingly and happily attended Zoom family reunions during the current COVID-19 pandemic. She loved her and Dorothy’s dogs, including Danny, Joshua, Sandy, Gabby, and Canela, and her lush gardens where she grew plumeria trees with fragrant flowers reminiscent of Hawaii, a popular vacation spot since the 1960s.

Joan was widely loved and respected in her religious community and family. Joan was a formidable intellect and a warm and graceful presence in any setting. She enjoyed receiving parishioners and friends, and enjoying the company of her children and grandchildren, which she and Dorothy often hosted for family celebrations at their San Diego home.

Joan is survived by her friend Dorothy Reed Curry; her four children, Rich Ford from Newberg, Oregon, Dave Ford from New York City, NY, Anne Ford from Oxford, England, and Chris Ford from Phoenix, Arizona; 13 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Services will be held on Saturday, January 8, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 2728 Sixth Ave., San Diego, CA 92103.

Instead of flowers, the family asked for donations to St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego and Vida Joven de Mexico.

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