MARIETTA - Art Fordham was a quiet man of many talents, according to those who knew the former teacher, city councilman and chairman of Washington County's Democratic Central Committee.
Fordham, 66, died while on a bicycle ride along County Road 4 Saturday morning. He reportedly suffered a heart attack.
"Nobody can believe it. It's still hard for me to process that he's gone, and he will be missed," said Molly Varner, a friend and chair of the Washington County Democratic Party.
"I know he really loved his grandchildren and spending time with them," she said. "And many people didn't know that Art was an accomplished woodworker. He made some beautiful furniture."
Varner said Fordham was a mentor for many who ran for elected office over the years.
"Art was quiet, but he knew how to run a campaign," she said. "And he was not into spin or misleading anyone. He made you clearly understand if you wanted to run for office you had to be clear about where you stand and what you were going to do to help people."
Fordham served 19 years on Marietta City Council, following in his father, Delbert Fordham's, footsteps.
"Art grew up hearing all about city council issues at the family dinner table," Varner added. "And as a councilman and member of the central committee he was always calm, even in the midst of controversy. Very often he was a catalyst in bringing people together to work on solutions to a problem."
Former Marietta Councilwoman Katie McGlynn attended Marietta High School with Fordham.
"He was a year ahead of me, but I remember he was always studious and industrious-very scholarly," she said. "He went to Marietta College and earned a degree in political science from Ohio State."
McGlynn noted Fordham also taught school for 35 years, including 27 years at the Washington County Career Center.
"The thing I admired most about working with Art was that he believed in good government and in the governmental process," she said. "He was very good at getting candidates to run for office-including me. And as a councilman he was fully committed to that position and serving the community."
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews said Fordham grew up on Marietta's west side where the family lived for many years.
"His father and mother ran an insurance company here in town," Matthews said. "They were all good people."
He said Fordham served as chairman of council's finance committee.
"He was always very frugal with the city's money," Matthews said. "And people respected him as a councilman. Art always seemed to be pretty cool and collected."
In addition to his civic service, Fordham enjoyed the outdoors, including bicycle riding, an interest he shared with longtime friend, fellow teacher, and Marietta Councilman Tom Vukovic.
"He liked to bicycle, but he was also a spelunker, and was recently planning to go on a camping trip with his grandson," Vukovic said.
Fordham began his teaching career at Marysville High School where he taught business classes, Vukovic said.
"But he and I started teaching at the (Washington County) Career Center the same year-it was 1973," he said. "And we team taught OWE (Occupational Work Experience) classes in the same classroom from 1975 to 1983. He used to drive an old black Volkswagen."
Vukovic said Fordham was recognized as the OWE coordinator of the year in 2000, competing against more than 500 other teachers.
"We worked well together and became really, really close friends," he said. "We spent a lot of time together. I'll miss him."