What type of person was Lillie Ford and what kind of legacy did she leave?
The people who knew her best can best provide the answer. Several of them commented to the Daily Journal in Wednesday's front page tribute story which focused on her many contributions.
Ford, 90, died last week after leading a distinguished life that included 34 years as an elementary school teacher and four years as a Kankakee District 111 Board of Education member. She surely left her mark in these roles and the other activities she took on.
Al Lawrence, who was the principal of Taft Primary School while Ford worked there, touched both on her dogged determination and her unwavering devotion toward children.
"She was the original 'strong woman.' She had a mind of her own and was not easy to sway," Lawrence said. "She had a soft spot for children, especially troubled kids. She often took them under her wing."
Former Kankakee schools superintendent Kay Green, former fellow school board member James Wasser, and Ford's daughter, Sylvia Rockett, herself a long-time educator, echoed the same thoughts.
It's obvious Ford's first loyalty was to children and no one was going to stand in her way when it came to advocating for them. You got the feeling if you had Ford on your side, you liked your chances even if the Russian Cossack army was lined up on the other side.
We thank Ford for caring about our kids, and we thank her for giving them a voice when they otherwise might not have had one.
Now we need people to follow in her footsteps. Yes, it would pay tribute to Ford, but most importantly, it's the right and courageous thing to do.