Running on Empty
One time Mr. Ford came into the shop in the evening and no one else was
there. He pulled out his wallet, which had loose leaflets in it with pictures
of Edsel and the grandchildren. He paid me and said, “Joe, look. This is
Edsel when he was a little child and I was very proud of him. Here are the
grandchildren, Benson, Henry, Billy, and Josephine. My son had everything
to live for but he worked too hard and now he is gone.” I looked at his face
and he had tears in his eyes. He was a lonely old gentleman.
—Joseph Zaroski, Henry Ford's barber
On May 30, 1943, just two days after burying his son, Henry Ford officially reassumed the presidency of the Ford Motor Company. At the same board meeting, Henry appointed Harry Bennett the company's administrative director and a member of the board of directors. Edsel's grieving widow and children were insulted by the insensitivity of the timing. Their outrage was tempered by a sense of dread. How could the already drifting company hope to survive with Henry, a man born just days after the battle of Gettysburg, at the helm?
Henry was increasingly showing signs of confusion. He would be completely lucid one day, but then on the next, his attention would wane and his memory would often fail him entirely. Rufus Wilson, his chauffeur for many years, was in a position to trace the old man's rapid decline. “I'm pretty sure that Edsel Ford's death and the war shortened Mr. Ford's life by five or six years, maybe a little bit longer. I daresay Mr. Ford showed signs of failing both physically and mentally. He was