Obituary | James E. Ford

· 3 min read

Obituary | James E. Ford

Color portrait of James E. Ford on black campus background

James (Jim) Eric Ford, 79, retired associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, died Nov. 25.

Ford was born in Los Angeles to Oma Bertha (Brashears) Ford and Menten Hayward. The couple welcomed daughter Janis three years later. Ford’s family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1955, which began his lifelong commitment to his faith. Ford spent his early years in the Los Angeles area and attended North High School, where he began his musical, theatrical and academic pursuits in earnest. The remainder of his life was informed by a melding of those passions and his faith.

Ford received his Bachelor of Arts from Brigham Young University in 1968, Master of Arts from San Francisco State College in 1972 and Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Chicago in 1981. From 1981 until his retirement in 2008, he served as associate professor of English at Nebraska. His final years in academia were spent as a professor of English at Brigham Young University. A lifelong teacher, he focused on the philosophical foundations of critical theory, with a special interest in intellectual revolutions, as evidenced by his book, “The Ontic Return: The Current Epochal Shift from Meaning to Being” (2012).

Ford married Nancy Ann Tangren in 1973, and they shared 25 years of marriage, six children, and homes in six cities before their split in 1997. In 1998, Jim married opera singer Ariel Bybee in Lincoln, where they were able to blend their interests through the creation of dozens of programs combining music and literature, which they performed in venues around the world.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he served a mission in the New England area from 1963 to 1965. He and Bybee participated in a joint mission in 2013 and 2014 in California.

Ford is survived by his sister, Janis Pitzak (Larry) of Indio, California, as well as his six children: daughter Cimony Mahoney (Joseph), daughter Cambric Ford, son David Ford (Becki), daughter Gillian Helm (Scott), daughter Molly Andersen (Joseph) and daughter Bryony Gwynn (Bryan). He is also survived by grandchildren Olivia, Jackson, Lucas, Emma, Kylen, Everly, Griffin, Jason, Case, Edison, Austen, Theodore, Rosie and soon-to-be-born Greyson, in addition to nieces, nephews and cousins. He is preceded in death by his wife, Ariel Bybee.

Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Dec. 9 at Larkin Mortuary in Salt Lake City, Utah. Interment will take place at the Salt Lake Cemetery following the service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Ford’s honor to the Ariel Bybee Vocal Scholarship in the School of Music at BYU or to Friends of Opera in the Glenn Korff School of Music at Nebraska.

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