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Bud Ford, ex-Manitou Springs mayor, Dulcimer Shop owner, Grateful Dead fan, dies at 73

By: Chhun Sun
October 8, 2017 Updated: October 9, 2017 at 6:14 am
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FILE - Bud Ford, former mayor of Manitou Springs poses with quaint shops in background. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett)

Bud Ford, a former Manitou Springs mayor, retired teacher and longtime Grateful Dead fan whose iconic Dulcimer Shop couldn't survive catastrophic flooding, died Saturday afternoon. He was 73.

His family said he had been in frail health the past few years and was diagnosed two weeks ago with acute myeloid leukemia, a blood cancer. He died at his Manitou Springs home just after 2 p.m., surrounded by family and friends who sang songs until his final breath, a dying wish, his family said.

In his lifetime, Ford wore many hats.

After serving as a city councilman in the 1980s, he was the Manitou Springs mayor from 1992-96. He taught at Midland Elementary School in Colorado Springs for 29 years before he retired in 1995.

In 1986, he won the Colorado Teacher of the Year award, the family said.

He was also a pastor for Community of Christ church in Manitou Springs, a founder of the popular Emma Crawford Coffin Race and the Manitou Springs Mountain Music Festival that lasted about 30 years.

Bud Ford works on a dulcimer in this photo taken at The Dulcimer Shop in November 2006. Ford closed the store after flooding hit it in August, and he's trying to raise money to pay taxes and keep his wood mill machinery. Mark Reis photo 

Besides his time as a mayor who touted the town's festivals, Ford is also known as the owner of The Dulcimer Shop in Manitou Springs, which closed in early 2014 after 41 years of providing custom-made wooden instruments, music lessons and community service.

The shop was shuttered after the Waldo Canyon flood in August 2013 deposited three feet of mud on the basement floor. The final blow came over back taxes owed to the IRS.

Born Gherald LeRoy Ford Jr. in San Diego in 1944, he lived in Colorado almost continuously since age 2. He moved to Manitou Springs with his wife Donna in 1973 - three years after he started his dulcimer shop in Cripple Creek.

Ford was known to talk about local politics, music and life with customers in his shop, a fixture on Manitou's main drag.

"It was interesting to realize how much of a local celebrity he was," said his daughter Erin, "but he was just my dad."

Erin grew up a Grateful Dead fan and said that she was the one who turned her dad onto the psychedelic rock band after he retired. Ford was known to wear tie-dyed T-shirts and even admitted that he tried to look like the band's lead singer.

In 1996, he told The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., that "I didn't affect the Jerry Garcia hair and beard until I was retired from my profession."

Donna said Sunday that her husband loved Manitou "dearly."

Through tears, she added, "He has been so supportive of the community."

In 1996, Ford told The Gazette about his "love affair" for his town, adding "there is direct feedback out here. You can be questioned on something while walking home. I only have 4,700 people to listen to."

He also said at the time that his biggest victory as mayor was "stomping into the dirt those people who wanted to bring gambling to Manitou Springs."

The family said Ford's health began to deteriorate after doctors detected a heart blockage in July 1995 that required triple-bypass heart surgery.

He is survived by his wife Donna, 75, and their son Buddy, 44, and daughter Erin, 42.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 21 at Soda Springs Park in Manitou Springs.

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