Retirement Ends Chapter in Priest’s Varied Career


He ran with motorcyclists, performed dangerous covert missions during the Korean War and worked for an airline and a lingerie firm.

Then he became an Episcopal priest.

“The Lord got a big enough 2-by-4 and got my attention,” said Father Darrell Ford, 65, explaining his calling to the priesthood.

Now that chapter of his diverse job history has ended.

Hundreds of parishioners crowded St. James Episcopal Church hall in Newport Beach this week to bid an affectionate farewell to the retiring cleric who continued to live a colorful life behind the collar.


Ford has ministered to the needy in Panama, Mexico and at the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

He has rescued more than 200 runaway teenagers from the streets and has worked in gang intervention.

He also has performed marriages for some 175 couples in the parish, visited the elderly and infirm and presided over most of the funerals.

And through it all, his passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles has remained, which parishioners at his party both teased and cautioned him about.

“I’ve been down twice. I’ve left some skin on the pavement,” he said, laughing. “I know what happens. You don’t have to tell me.”

At 45, Ford was ordained and assigned to a parish in Fort Worth. Soon after, he applied to a missionary program and was sent to western Mexico, then to Panama and then to Pine Ridge, where he met Father David Anderson.


When Anderson became rector of St. James, he asked Ford to join him. Here, Ford counseled engaged couples and performed weddings and funerals.

But a large part of his work has involved reuniting young runaways in the Los Angeles area with parents throughout the nation. That project began through happenstance, when his former roommate from the seminary asked Ford to help find the runaway daughter of a Texas couple.

Through his biker friends, Ford found the girl and arranged for her to be whisked away, despite her fear that her pimp would find her and retaliate, he said. From that experience, his reputation grew in the hangouts of runaways, and he was sought to assist with other reunions.

Before the reunions, he meets with the runaways’ parents and counsels them on how to proceed with their children and come to terms with what has happened.

“My role is talking,” he said. “Only on rare occasions have I gone there to get them [the runaways] out. My friends bring them out.”

As for his retirement, Ford will live in Palm Springs, doing as little as possible for the first six months.


He is thinking about writing a book, not about his life but about weddings and how to properly plan them. It will not be the typical wedding etiquette advice, he said.

He is tentatively calling it “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

Some future Sunday during services, “when the preaching has gone on a little too long, I expect that someone with a really loud motorcycle will come around the corner [just outside the church doors],” Anderson said. “I’ll want someone to check outside to see if it’s Darrell on a Harley.”