JOE FORD NATURE CENTER

Photographs by: Larry Bidwell,  Deborah Branch, Jessie Parsons, Mike Robinson, Bob Christie

With Joe's quest for knowledge came a large collections which led to needing a place to store and display all of these items. As a team, Joe and Grace began their quest to find such a place. Grace, secured an agreement with Brescia University to house Joe's collection and on October 9, 2005, the Joe Ford Library opened in Room 131 of the Science Building at Brescia. Many visitors passed through the doors to see this library and chat with Grace and Joe.  Visitors brought in rocks to be identified or stones they thought were ancient tools. People came asking many nature and non-nature related question and thus continued with Joe's tradition of leaving no question unanswered. The team greeted each visitor with a smile and the warmth of a true friend.  After some time, Grace felt the need for community support to preserve such a collection and help continue their vision and so sought the approval from Brescia to establish a Board of Directors for the Joe Ford Library.  Two years later, with Grace leading the way a Board of Directors was formed by old friends who all shared the common interest of all things Nature.   In 2010, the Board of Directors determined the need for the Joe Ford Library to become a non-profit organization in order to continue to grow.  The details were finalized and in July 2010, the Joe Ford Library moved to the building small building located at the Joe Ford Nature Park (a park that was dedicated to Joe Ford the Naturalist by the city of Owensboro).   On October 10, 2010, more than 250 people attended the grand opening of the Joe Ford Nature Center that now  houses the Joe Ford Library.  The Joe Ford Nature Center continues to this day to serve Owensboro and the Surrounding Counties by providing nature based programs and events for all who seek the knowledge and appreciation of the green spaces around us and the wildlife that coexist there.

Joe Ford Nature Center History

female students.  After attending Georgetown College of Kentucky, Grace began her 47 years of service in the field of education. During her career in education, Grace wore many hats. She was a teacher for several years, educating students in the elementary, middle and High school setting from 1959- 1973 (Sacramento High School (1959-1960), Snyder Elementary School (1960-1969), Apollo Junior High School (1969-1971) and Burns Middle School (1971-1973).  After her time as a teacher Grace became a counselor at Apollo High School from 1973- 1989  and later an instructor at Owensboro Junior College of Business from 1990-2000.  She finished her career in the school system as the CATS coordinator until 2006.  She also served as the President of the Daviess County Education Association from 1974-1975 and Daviess County/ Owensboro Retired Association from 1997-1998.  Grace was the leader and motivation to start up the Joe Ford Nature Library and her dedication and hard work encouraged the growth of the organization which became the Joe Ford Nature Center in which she was the director until 2017.  Grace led a successful and motivating life and was an inspiration to all who met her.  She devoted much of her life to educating and advocating for students all while being a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and friend.  JFNC would not exist without the drive, leadership and dedication of Grace Ford.       

The man with all the answers!  Naturalist and nature educator Joe spent his lifetime consumed with learning and educating others about the natural world around them.  Joe Ford gained his love for nature by growing up in the middle of it on his family's small farm in Sorgho, Kentucky. By day, he walked the fields observing and catching animals, and by

Joesph M. Ford

February 8, 1925- July 3, 2014

night, he read any nature-related book he could get from the library. Joe Ford went to elementary school in a one-room school  that is now located at Panther Creek Park until his eighth grade year when the school was moved.  He graduated from  Daviess County High School in 1942 and attended the University of  Kentucky where he studied geology. In 1944 he joined the Merchant Marines and served for two and a half years.  For the next twenty years he was a produce farmer, husband and Father.   Throughout his life what remained constant was his love and appreciation for nature.  As he got older, people would ask Joe questions about "this animal" or "that plant that looks like a weed". If he didn't know the answer to their question, he would read on it until he found the answer. In this way, Joe became known as "The Answer Man". This quest for knowledge of the natural world opened many doors for Joe as he was asked to speak about nature-related topics at many civic clubs and gatherings.  Joe Ford was the driving force behind the start-up of the Owensboro Area Museum and remained its Director for twenty one years.  He was also Editor of the "Ford Trail" for the Evansville Courier and Press for 15 years, Columnist for the Messenger-Inquire, Host of a weekly television series and weekly radio show and Star Editor for the League of Kentucky Sportsmen.  He wrote articles for newspapers on nature-related topics, was named Owensboro's Official Naturalist in 2008, and was the Naturalist and tour guide for the Daviess County Parks for 14 years where he captivated people of all ages with his stories and vast knowledge of nature.  Joe was Awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1987 and served as Consultant on the Joe Ford Library Board until 2010. Joe Ford's passion for nature and education became the inspiration for the Joe Ford Nature Center and the programs and services it offers.

The Lady that somehow did it all!  Grace was truly a remarkable woman and was the person who made things happen!  Grace was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky and graduated Shawnee High school in Louisville, Kentucky  in 1950 with the last class of all

Grace Carter Ford

April 12, 1933-September 16, 2021