Canadian business lost one of its foremost entrepreneurs when Tom Foord, co-founder of Kal Tire, and president of the company for half a century, died of heart failure at his home in Vernon, B.C. on Thursday, April 12, 2012. He was 89.
Over the past five years, Echo Memoirs has had the pleasure of working with Kal Tire and the Foord family on two books, one about the 50-year history of the company and one about the tight-knit family. Tom and his late wife, Norah, inspired us with their fierce love of family, friendship and life. They offered grit, generosity and affection in spades. Tom’s death follows that of Norah’s by only a few months. We were deeply saddened by Norah’s passing in February. As writer Eve Rockett wrote in A Full House: The Tom & Norah Family Story, “Norah has been the glue that holds the family together. They call her the CEO: The Chief Emotional officer.” We are honoured and grateful that Norah was able to see the proofs of the family book before her passing.
Tom and Norah met when he was posted to a teletype office in Newfoundland. They married in 1944. After the war, Tom moved to his new wife’s hometown where he spent almost a decade at a variety of jobs before buying the service station in 1951 that later became Kal’s first location in 1953. With fearlessness and innovation, the Foords expanded the company into what is now the largest independent tire company in Canada.
John, our Creative Director, came away from his first meeting with Tom with some lasting impressions. “I first met Tom at a dinner meeting more than four years ago. Right away I knew he was a charismatic, generous man, who also packed a great sense of humour and a capacity for keen observation. He was down to earth, interested in everything – especially our process – with an openness that made all of us feel as though we just at home relaxing and sharing the day’s events.”
Tom was the deserving recipient of countless honours in his life, including: Vernon’s Most Valuable People Award, the Order of British Columbia in 2000, and a Doctor of Laws degree from Royal Roads University, his proudest honour of all. In 2003, he became the first Canadian to be inducted into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame, which includes Harvey Firestone, Charles Goodyear and Les Schwab.
The Echo team is truly proud to have been able to tell the Tom and Norah Foord family story, and extend our sincere condolences to their family.