Remembering Dan Ford

Originally Published: 11/10/2016

Dan Ford died the morning of October 24. Dan was the Director of Education and Prevention for MAP throughout the 1990s and his spouse Wally Earl worked in MAP’s fundraising department for years. Dan was instrumental in growing and expanding MAP’s prevention work and was the force behind PrideAlive, MAP’s prevention efforts for gay/bisexual/queer men, and Mainline, MAP’s syringe exchange program. Those programs continue 20 years later. Folks who worked with Dan shared some memories of him and his important work in Minnesota.

Lorraine Teel, former Executive Director of the Minnesota AIDS Project:

Dan Ford (known as “Ford”) was an early pioneer in the fight against AIDS. Originally from Chicago, Ford came to Minnesota in the 1970s and was one of the first to develop substance abuse services for youth. He moved to San Francisco in 1980 and lived there during the first decade of AIDS. During that time, Ford earned his Ed.D. from the Institute for Advanced Studies of Human Sexuality. Ford and his surviving husband Wally Earl, were on the front lines living through the devastation that HIV brought to the gay, bi and transgender communities in San Francisco. Ford brought his knowledge of substance abuse and human sexuality together, first as the Director of Prevention at Cascade AIDS Project and then coming back to Minnesota in 1992 to become MAP’s Director of Education. Ford was a founding member of what was then known as the Governor’s Task Force on HIV Prevention, served on various Ryan White sub-committees and most importantly dreamed up and supervised the development of MAP’s flagship programs in needle exchange and PrideAlive. Always a rabble rouser, Ford was a leading member of the revolutionary Target Coalition in Minneapolis during the early gay rights movement that took on the right wing’s homophobic actions – he proudly participated in throwing a pie at one of the right wing’s leading forces, Anita Bryant. Wherever he was, Ford’s quirky sense of humor, his ability to bring together academic theory and practical street-level solutions and his loyalty to friends and family truly made a difference in this world. His legacy continues at PrideAlive and Mainline and MAP extends its deepest sympathies at this time.

Colleen Bjerke, former Director of Programs at MAP:

I worked with Dan at MAP beginning in 1997. I think of him as a very smart and caring man who was also a bit of a character. He was never less than passionate about anything he cared about. He adored his cats, Bessie and Beulah, and worked so hard to have them enjoy life. More importantly, Dan was a passionate crusader for HIV prevention. He watched the AIDS epidemic take hold in the gay community and worked to end it, all the while keeping the idea of sex positive strategies at the forefront because he knew the community needed and deserved it. He was a walking encyclopedia on HIV prevention research. He could take this knowledge and translate it into practical, realistic strategies that gay men could incorporate into their everyday lives. He brought the idea of PrideAlive to MAP and made it a reality. That’s a life well lived. Rest in peace, Dan. Your memory lives on in the many battles you fought so well.

Lynn Mickelson, Director of Legal Services at MAP:

MAP and the HIV community lost a great advocate last week with the death of Dan Ford. In these days of medical advancements, it’s important for all of us to remember and honor those leaders on whose shoulders we stand. Ford is a vibrant part of MAP’s history. I remember his passion and his ability to infuse sensuality and sexy into living with HIV in the 1990’s when most of our community believed sex was history. Dan inspired hope and wholeness with a generous helping of naughty. I have to say I learned more about gay sex than I ever thought I would. Dan was all about healthy living and celebration of sexuality. He was also a realist who laid the foundation for much of the fantastic prevention work MAP does today. I will be forever grateful to Dan for his contributions to our community. And to both Dan and his husband Wally for making MAP a great place to work and do good.