Robert Hord: Never forgot his roots and helped with many local community projects
Robert Hord passed away this week. He was a very rich man, but he never forgot where he came from -- Greene County.
He was a man who was born in Bloomfield, grew up in Worthington in a big family of simple means, who left home to join the Army and worked his way up through the ranks to a job in the Pentagon working for Gen. Maxwell Taylor in the Joint Chief of Staffs Office.
Once back in the civilian world, he started working at the bottom of a communications technology company, the Andrew Corporation, then worked himself up the ladder of success to become President of the Board.
When he retired, he didn't slow down but moved over to the top spot of the company's philanthropic foundation, the Aileen S. Andrew Foundation (ASAF). Under Hord's leadership, the ASAF gave out over 800 college scholarships and funded schools, libraries, hospitals, police and firefighting departments and facilities.
The word funded, in this case, does not mean he just made a nice donation -- it means fully funded major projects, like a library in Orland Park, Ill., the Illinois firefighters training facility, and the Worthington Municipal Building.
His sister, Wanda Parker of Worthington, said she didn't know why, but Hord loved law enforcement officers and firefighters.
"That was his thing -- policemen and firemen. He was always concerned about them. He had two nephews who were Indiana State Police troopers (her sons Mark and Phillip Parker) and he always wanted to know about everything they were doing," said Parker.
Parker mentioned there was a memorial with an eternal flame in Indianapolis to fallen officers.
"Bob did that," said Parker.
Bob Hord did a lot of things. The public may never know about all of those things because he did them quietly, many times anonymously, and never sought, and many times shunned recognition.
The Worthington Police Department was one of the recipients of Hord's generosity in the last couple of decades and Town Marshal Dennis Conaway said the relationship between Hord and the WPD became like family.
"I think he was a multi-millionaire, but he just sat down and talked like anyone," said Conaway.
Remembering back, Conaway said he was at home when a white Mercedes stationwagon pulled in to his driveway.
"I don't know anyone who drives that kind of car," said Conaway, "but Mr. Hord got out with one other man, came in and sat down in my woodworking shop. He just talked, he asked questions about Worthington's police department and then he asked, 'How can I help?' " said Conaway.
Hord listened to Conaway talk about the needs and the limited budget, then Hord tossed out a figure and asked Conaway, "Will that work?"
Conaway said over the years Hord had purchased five new vehicles for the WPD and he was the sole sponsor of the department's K-9 program.
One of the last donations he made to the WPD was for digital cameras for all officers and a long list of other equipment -- worth approximately $100,000.
Conaway said just knowing someone like Hord had faith in the department was a boost to all of the officers.
"He had the means, but he didn't flaunt it. He knew where he came from and he never forgot," said Conaway. "He knew first hand about how people struggle, and Robert Hord gave back."
Conaway said the WPD didn't ask for help -- Hord was just there to step forward.
"Mr. Hord didn't want recognition, so we made him a rocking chair and put his name on it on a special brass plate," said Conaway.
When Worthington's Municipal Building was completed and the department was going to try to get used furnishings from Crane, and the clerk-treasurer's office was going to use furniture out of the old building, Conaway said Hord called and said to get new stuff for the boys.
Malcolm Stahl, who was serving on the Worthington Town Council when the building was constructed, said Hord also bought new furnishings for all of the offices in the building.
Hord also paid for the building -- it cost over one million dollars.
Hord became aware of the need, and lack of funding, from an article in the Worthington paper and contacted Stahl to talk about the situation.
"He came down to Worthington to talk about it, on the quiet. He had his financial man with him and we talked about it. He told me to get him some plans and estimates and let him know what we needed," said Stahl. "So I started working on it and got a drawing and some cost estimates to him. Next thing, he called and said 'We're going to do it for you,'"
Hord told Stahl he wanted to pay for the building anonymously. As it all started coming together, the anonymous donor was a mystery to townspeople and Stahl said at first, Hord's own family in Worthington did not know the secret contributor was Hord. Eventually, his identity became known.
Though he didn't want recognition, he wanted to be kept abreast of the plans and how everything was going -- people didn't know he was coming into town regularly to keep an eye on the progress.
"We'd meet up at the laundry and stand out in the back in the alley and talk about how things were going," said Stahl.
Besides footing the bill for the municipal building and his support of Worthington's police and fire departments, Hord sent a check to cover the cost of the finishing touches to the town's community building in the park after grant monies ran short. Hord paid for the heating and air-conditioning systems, new tables and chairs and other necessary furnishings and high-quality commercial appliances for the kitchen area.
When the W-J Library wanted to build a new wing but there wasn't quite enough money, without fanfare a check from Hord arrived to insure the project would go through -- it's believed to have been well over $100,000.
When the Worthington Cemetery needed a garage for its maintenance equipment, Hord asked if $20,000 would be enough.
When the Greene County Veterans Affairs needed a new van, Hord made a sizable donation but didn't want his name in the paper.
He bought many other vans as well including a bus/van for Glenburn Home in Linton.
Stahl said he had no idea how many people had benefited from Hord's quiet generosity.
"We need more people like him in this country," said Stahl. "This would be a better place to live. Bob Hord had a big heart."
Hord leaves behind his wife of over 50 years, Juanita Andrew Hord, and several children and grandchildren plus his brother, Jack Livingston, and sisters, MaryJo Noel and Wanda Parker, numerous nieces and nephews and friends all over the world.
A date for a memorial service in the Chicago area later this month will be set. In lieu of flowers, Hord's family has requested that donations in his memory may be made to the Worthington-Jefferson Township Public Library.