Ann Ford, 57, the face of La Salle College High School

Posted: June 20, 2014

ANN FORD's ambition was to see her two children get started on the kind of loving relationships that she had enjoyed in her own 34-year marriage.

Her children, Sarah and Kenneth, had weddings scheduled for this month and in August. Ann, suffering from terminal cancer, was told she would never live to see either happen.

But you don't want to bet against a mother's love and determination.

When Sarah married Thomas Leonard on June 14 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Fairmount, her mother was there - not in person, but she was able to watch the proceedings on an iPad and was certainly there in spirit. And she also helped her daughter get dressed in the morning.

Son Kenneth is to be married to Cynthia Rusnak on Aug. 9, but the bridal shower was moved to June 8 and held in the Fords' home in Huntingdon Valley so mother could give her blessing.

Ann Ford, a devoted employee of La Salle College High School for 23 years, a woman so dedicated to the importance of a Catholic education that she regularly drove inner-city students to the school, died Tuesday. She was 57.

Ann's smiling face was usually the first sight that students, parents and visitors saw when they arrived at La Salle when she was employed in the main office. Later, she worked in admissions as an assistant to the late Brother James Rieck.

A woman devoted to the welfare of others, Ann was an active member of Habitat for Humanity, taking hammer and saw in hand to build houses for the poor, along with her husband, Kenneth.

She also participated in the Roman Catholic Kairos weekend retreat program of La Salle, in which she told students about her cancer experiences and how her faith helped her fight it.

"She was very humble," said her daughter, Sarah. "She felt that everybody has a story and she didn't want to put herself forward. She kept turning it down, but then she realized that the students might benefit from hearing her story. She loved every minute of it."

Ann was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. Using the Internet, her family discovered an experimental cancer treatment at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in which a chemotherapy drug is heated to 103 degrees before insertion into the abdomen.

The procedure was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration when Ann first was treated. But the second time she had the procedure, the FDA had approved it.

Sarah said her mother wanted to undergo the treatment, which was long and painful, not so much for herself, but to help demonstrate its effectiveness for future patients.

"She was the strongest person I ever met," Sarah said. "She was a warrior."

Ann's marriage to Kenneth Ford was idyllic. They met when they were teenagers. Sarah said her father learned to dance just so he could work up the nerve to ask her out. They were married on Oct. 27, 1979.

"The respect and admiration and love they had for each other was there every single day," Sarah said. "It was like they had one soul in two bodies."

Ann was born in Philadelphia to John and Margaret Diehl. She was the fifth of their nine children. She graduated from Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in 1975. She worked in administration for Nazareth Hospital before going to La Salle College High School.

"Ann's warm, caring and optimistic spirit will be missed throughout the La Salle family," the school stated on its website.

Ann raised more than $10,000 over the years for the American Cancer Society.

Besides her husband, son and daughter, she is survived by five sisters, Sister Mary Ellen, Margaret Ford, Frances Kaiser, Jane Steinmetz and Elizabeth Callahan, and three brothers, John Diehl Jr., Joseph Diehl and Stephen Diehl.

Services: Funeral Mass 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at La Salle College High School, 8605 W. Cheltenham Ave., Wyndmoor. Friends may call at 8 a.m.

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