Clarice J. Ford, a retired family therapist, died on Saturday, July 27, 2019, from the effects of a stroke. She was 86.
She was born on June 28, 1933, to the late Eunice Dennis Bailey and Samuel G. Bailey in Philadelphia. The youngest of five children, she grew up in South Philadelphia. Though raised during the Depression, her parents sheltered her to a degree. She commented that she didn’t know she was poor until she attended high school.
She attended Smith Elementary School and Barratt Junior High School before transferring in the 9th grade to the Philadelphia High School for Girls.
One of just a handful of Black students in her class during an era in which Black girls were discouraged from attending an all-academic high school, she braved racism and excelled. She graduated from Girls High in 1951.
Ford was baptized at St. Simon the Cyrenian Episcopal Church, where she was an active member of the Girls Friendly Society.
In 1952, she joined her sister Etta E. Bailey Ferron at the Veterans Administration, where she performed clerical work and became part of the first wave of Blacks able to obtain federal jobs following World War II — the generation that helped to create the African-American middle class. She also worked briefly at Sears & Roebuck before joining the City of Philadelphia Department of Revenue, where she worked for 16 years.
As a young woman, she loved to party, dance and enjoy good people. She frequented jazz clubs such as the Showboat, Pep’s and 421 in Philadelphia; Little Belmont, Wonder Gardens and Club Harlem in Atlantic City; and Birdland and The Village Vanguard in New York.
She met Jerome M. Ford at the Christian Street YMCA. He had attended the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore on a basketball scholarship, the first in his family of 12 to go to college. They were married on Oct. 19, 1957, at St. Simon the Cyrenian Episcopal Church and two children were born to their union.
Once both children were in school, Ford matriculated at Temple University to study social work. She wanted both to help people and to make more money for her family. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1972. As she was engaged in her studies, Jerome developed colon cancer, passing away on Sept. 5, 1973.
A widow with two children at just 40, Ford earned a master’s degree in social work though Temple University’s accelerated education program in 1974. Armed with her new degree, she began practicing family therapy at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic at 18th and Christian streets, working with abused and neglected children and their families. She became the director of family services at the clinic’s West Branch at 50th Street and Woodland Avenue, where she helped train others in the practice of family therapy. Ford worked with the organization until she retired in 1998.
In 1983, she began experiencing weakness in her right leg that would cause her to stumble and fall. After two years of testing, doctors diagnosed her with “multiple-sclerosis-type” symptoms. Despite the difficult diagnosis, Ford determined that she would live life on her own terms.
Her family said she was an excellent cook who was known for her Good Friday fish fries, waffles on Sunday mornings, New Year’s Day brunches, cheesecakes and pound cakes. Holiday dinners would rotate between her home and those of her siblings, Selvin Bailey and Etta E. Bailey Ferron.
In 1985, Ford and her next-door neighbors, Nina Bryan and Lillian Jenkins, launched Lyons Party Consultants. They became one of the first African-American catering companies to win major catering contracts, including with the mayor’s office, Temple University School of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania, the LEADS program with Walter and Beverly Lomax, and A Better Chance, also at Penn, under the leadership of Harold Haskins.
Ford enjoyed life, doing things like staying up late, sleeping in, playing pinochle, enjoying music, going to concerts and traveling to the Bahamas with her friend, Barbara Bryant Forbes. She stayed close to a longstanding circle of friends, including Doris Watson Thomas, Dorothy Black Davis, Dorothy Hawthorne, Dottie McCall Craig, Edie Barber Benson, Janice Lewis Dickerson and Loretta L. Lewis.
She was preceded in death by her son, Niles Bailey Ford.
In addition to her sister, she is survived by: her daughter, Stacey E. Ford, and her partner, Julia Bennett; daughter-in-law, Jenny Taylor Ford; grandsons, Isaac and Malik; nieces, Anita Bailey, Taryn Bailey, Leslie Ferron-Smith and Tammi Rivers; sisters-in-law, Mary Ford Reeves, Lula Ford Remy, Sara Ford Jones and Frances Ford Bowser; and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held Aug. 10 at St. Simon the Cyrenian Church, 1401 S. 22nd St. Viewing is at 9 a.m. Services will follow at 10 a.m.
Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.