Guillaume Ford isn’t used to having the spotlight focused on him, but he was the center of attention Saturday as he celebrated his 100th birthday.
A preacher for most of his life, Ford directs all credit for his success to his faith.
“It was not my dream, my hope that I would reach such an age, but the Lord made it possible,” he said.
But his own actions have made him a guiding presence for his 10 children and dozens of grandchildren, family said as they gathered at Mirelle’s Restaurant in Westbury for a party.
“Most of the people here, he has done something positive for them,” said his daughter Dani Ford-Borgella of West Palm Beach, Florida.
From 1 to 5 p.m., revelers enjoyed Caribbean food, lively music and one another’s company at Mirelle’s. The guest of honor arrived at 1:30 p.m. to a ballroom packed with smiling faces.
Ford lives with his daughter Florence, 56, in Bay Shore, and still makes time for church. He goes to Bethel AME Church every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., Florence Ford said, and still speaks French, English, Creole and Spanish.
“He’s very active,” she said. “As the weather gets warmer, he’ll be outside walking with his walker.”
Guillaume Ford was born in Haiti and began his career there, said son Dr. Billy Ford, 55, of Hempstead. He ran an AME church for years while serving as an immigration director for nearly two decades, a role that became more important as Haiti’s political climate deteriorated.
Raymond Joseph, former Haitian ambassador to the United States, was one of those who relied on Ford in Haiti. Joseph and Ford became friends when Ford’s immigration work brought him to Joseph’s hometown of Les Cayes, where Joseph had started a small Christian newspaper and did some religious translations, he said.
However, Joseph’s work ran him afoul of the government in 1961, when dictator François Duvalier was in power. Ford helped Joseph quickly secure a passport to leave the country before government police forces could get to him — something Ford ultimately did for dozens of people during Duvalier’s rule, Joseph said.
“I got my passport on Tuesday and left the country on Friday,” Joseph said. “The Tonton Macoute [government police forces] came Monday and I wasn’t there. That’s how this man saved my life.”
Ford’s children moved to the United States in 1972 and he joined them full-time in the mid-1980s, Billy Ford said. He continued to work as a preacher at churches in the New York area and raised his kids in a faith-based home, something his children still embrace.
“I’m proud to be who I am today because of him,” Ford-Borgella said. “He instilled the spiritual life in us.”
Billy Ford said the children all get together regularly for special occasions and to collaborate on projects. He and two of his brothers who are also doctors even organized an aid trip to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
“In our family, we’re about the moments, we love birthdays and anniversaries,” he said. “It’s not just being here, it’s being here and relatively healthy and having family. That’s really exciting.”