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Drayton community honours grocery store worker following sudden passing


The Easter long weekend is feeling a lot different for the Ford family this year.

On the morning of March 26, Bonnie Ford got a call from her brother John's nurse saying they couldn't get in touch with him. 

In that moment, she felt something wasn't right and made the 40 minute drive from Listowel to Drayton.

“My friend said ‘I can drive you over’ and I said ‘okay. okay, sure,'" said Bonnie Ford. "I didn’t even know what to do so I called the police [and said ‘it's just a welfare check please.’

“My husband is a retired fireman, so I thought, wow, I’ll call him and have him go and check since he’s a familiar face and friend to John. He went in and came out rather quickly and he's like ‘he's gone, he’s deceased’. He just looked that peaceful, there was nothing sinister around it. it was just that he was just gone."

The Ford siblings are now mourning the loss of their beloved older brother.

“I was proud of my brother. yes, very proud,” Glen Ford told CTV News. “He's always been our big brother, he's always looked out for us.” 

John now not only leaves a void in his sibling's hearts, but also within the community of Drayton.

“He was just always happy and helping out,” said childhood friend, Derek Cherrey. “Whenever my mom came home with groceries or anything like that, he would help out. He was just happy, a happy man, happy kid at that time…he was always there and just a phenomenal person.”

“It's very upsetting…like for a couple of days, we had not even been at a stage of accepting that this is what happened because he was not sick,” said John’s employer, Mitul Patel. “He was all good and healthy and we were expecting him on Tuesday at 11:00.”

Working at the Drayton Freshmart for over three decades, John was a familiar face to many.

“He's a very jolly person,” employer Maulik Patel said. “He is one of the people in the town who remembers everyone names. He's been here for like four generations of owners, we are his fourth. Within the store community, he was one of the key players for sure.”

His siblings say he was a man who touched the lives of many within the tight-knit community of Drayton.

“He just taught everybody lessons on humility, humanity,” Bonnie said.

He also connected with people from around the world.

“He had over a hundred pen pals and handwrote letters,” she explained. “So I used to give him gifts. In the last few years, I’ve just been getting him stamps, envelopes and paper and pens because that's what he enjoyed…just in the past few days he’s received a dozen letters.”

The Ford’s say when the time is right, they will respond to all of John’s pen pals to inform them of what happened.

As the Easter long weekend comes to an end, the family prepares for John's memorial service where they expect to see a large turnout.

“We got the Drayton Arena for the funeral,” Glen said. “As we imagine, most of the community is going to be there, you know, and the surrounding area.”

“You know, everybody's going to talk about him in Drayton forever,” Cherrey said. “There's going to be people from all over this province attending to say goodbye to John.”

The family and the grocery store both plan to keep John’s memory alive in different ways.

“We are hoping to get a street named after him,” Ford said. “We’ve reached out to the mayor to discuss this. He would have loved something like that.”

“There are lots of options given to us and there are certain ideas in our mind to keep his memory in our store all the time by creating a nice bench in his memory and putting it right in the front of our store,” Maulik said. Top Stories

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