Barry Forde, longtime associate director of Golden Harvest Food Bank, dies

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 12:36 PM
Last updated 7:49 PM
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Barry Forde, the longtime associate director of Golden Harvest Food Bank, has died.

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Barry Forde (from left), Greg Ruehlmann and Vikki Blair Adkins cooked and sold hamburgers as part of "Rock Out Hunger" to raise money for the Golden Harvest Food Bank in June 2009.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/FILE
Barry Forde (from left), Greg Ruehlmann and Vikki Blair Adkins cooked and sold hamburgers as part of "Rock Out Hunger" to raise money for the Golden Harvest Food Bank in June 2009.

He was 65.

Forde was “the backbone of this organization” said Derek Dugan, the community relations director of Golden Harvest.

He died late Tuesday at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital after a brief illness. He had a stroke followed by organ failure over the past month, according to Golden Harvest.

“I have admired his unswerving commitment to Jesus and will forever remember him for his infectious smile, dedicated work ethic and kind-hearted spirit,” Golden Harvest executive director Travis McNeal said in a statement.

The funeral service is 9 a.m. Saturday at Saint Joseph Catholic Church, 2607 Lumpkin Road.

Forde and his wife, Diane, came to Augusta by way of the Alleluia Community. In the early 1980s, the Bronx, N.Y., native was searching the U.S. for a community where he and his family could grow in their Christian faith.

“We had really begun to believe very strongly that we were called on to live a deeper Christian life,” Forde, a member of Saint Joseph Catholic Church, said in a 2010 newspaper article.

Forde began volunteering at Augusta’s new food bank, Golden Harvest. By 1984, then-executive director Mike Firmin had offered him a job.

A strong friendship and work partnership began the day Forde walked up Firmin’s driveway a few months after moving to Augusta. Golden Harvest needed a coordinator for a one-year grant to operate USDA food distribution in the area, Firmin recalled Wednesday.

“I told him there were no guarantees for job security,” he said. “He prayed about it and came back to me and said he wanted to take a leap of faith and take the job although it had no security.”

In the ’90s, Forde was named associate director of the food bank. Today, the non-profit food bank distributes food through 400 food pantries and sites in Georgia and South Carolina.

Forde was a man of many talents, Firmin said. He had a special gift for public speaking and encouraging others to join Golden Harvest’s mission in caring for the needy.

“We both knew that God had a special way of taking care of the poor. Because we were servants of the poor, God would take care of us,” said Firmin, who was at the hospital with Forde on Tuesday evening.

Gary Garner, a fellow Alleluia Community member and neighbor for nearly 15 years, remembers Forde as a servant.

“Barry and Diane, they were deeply loved people that really lived community 24/7,” Garner said. “Their outreach was really in-reach. They always made themselves available to anybody.”

Forde was both a boss and friend to employees, said Rusty Marsh, the executive director of Augusta Rescue Mission.

“Barry was my mentor,” said Marsh, a former South Carolina administrator for the Golden Harvest’s Aiken Distribution Center. He worked with Forde from 1994 to 2009. “He was a great boss, a godly man.”

Bill Thompson, the executive vice president of Queensborough National Bank and Trust Co., is a former chairman of the board at Golden Harvest.

Early on, he says he knew Forde was a guy who got things done.

“I realized Barry was the guy who made things happen day-to-day,” Thompson said. “Mike was a visionary leader. Barry made sure things ran smoothly.”

In 1998, Forde succeeded Firmin as chairman of the South Carolina Food Bank Association serving for about a decade, Firmin said. He was also a pastoral coordinator and support group leader for Alleluia Community and involved in parish life at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Forde had one son, John.

Staff writer Meg Mirshak contributed to this report.

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Riverman1 05/22/13 - 01:46 pm
He lived a wonderful life

He lived a wonderful life dedicated to helping the downtrodden. He was a better man than I am.

younameit 05/22/13 - 01:59 pm
A true servant crosses the finish line....

"And He will raise you up on eagles wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hands." Now if I can just follow your example, I'll be allowed to join you, Barry.

GiantsAllDay 05/22/13 - 02:29 pm
Riverman1: Many times better

Riverman1: Many times better than myself as well. Way back when, I decided that rather than supporting every single charity that pops up, I would whole heartedly support 3 CSRA charities, GHFB, UW and RC. I feel this is a better use of my limited resources. Brother Forde's passing saddens me. RIP, buddy

Fiat_Lux 05/22/13 - 04:44 pm
A great man and a wonderful brother

He did so much for people on a personal level that changed lives for the better. There is no way to estimate the impact that he has had on our city and surrounding area, even beyond his work at Golden Harvest Food Bank.

What an awesome legacy he leaves for his family, and what a great model he was for how to live one's life for others out of a surpassing love for Jesus.

We'll miss you, Barry, and hope to end up where you are now.

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