Eugene D. “Gene” Oldford, 86, whose career in harness racing as a breeder, owner, and administrator led to his induction into the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association Hall of Fame in 2013 as well as numerous other accolades, passed away peacefully on Feb. 25, 2019, at Blue Water Hospice Home in Michigan.
Oldford was a longtime member of the MHHA board of directors, past president of Harness Horsemen International, and member of the U.S. Trotting Association. He received the 2014 HHI Person of the Year Award as well as multiple honours from MHHA including Board Member of the Year, Owner of the Year, and an Appreciation Award.
Among his favourite horses was Godiva Hall, a multiple-stakes-winner and world-record-setting female trotter, in the mid-2000s. Other top horses included pacers Billmar Scooter and Park Avenue. His current group of horses included stakes-winners Two A M and Chin Chin Hall, a three-year-old trotter who is eligible to this summer’s Hambletonian.
His son Stephen is a U.S. Trotting Association director and amateur driving champion.
Eugene D. Oldford was born to parents Stephen and Clara (Hallett) Oldford on July 28, 1932, in Detroit. He graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School in 1950 and attended St. Clair County Jr. College and the University of Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Panama.
Oldford, along with his brother Bill, acquired Huron Tool and Manufacturing, now Huron Inc., in Lexington, from their father Stephen in 1958. The company was sold to US Industries in 1968. He founded Oldford and Associates, an automotive manufacturer’s representative sales firm, in 1973 where he continued to work until his unexpected death. He was also co-founder of Black River Manufacturing, Port Huron, along with partners Jarold Hawks and Isaac Lang Jr.
Always active in his community, Oldford served in various leadership roles on the Worth Township Board, Boy Scouts of America, Jaycees, Croswell-Lexington Little League, Masonic Lodge and Trinity Episcopal Church.
Over the years, he gave generously to his community establishing the Stephen and Clara Oldford Scholarship fund to assist students attending St. Clair County Community College.
Oldford is survived by his three children, Stephen (Gale), Susan Zappa and Laurie. He was blessed with five loving grandchildren, Michelle (Manny) Chavez, Troy (Kelly), Kara, Joey Zappa and Vincent; and three great-grandchildren; Alex Chavez, Bensen Chavez, and Brooklyn. He is also survived by special friend, Nancy Edmonson; brother, William; sister-in-law, Jill Meyers; niece, Kathy (Gwen) Johansen; and nephews, Will (Ann Marie) and Douglas (Amy) Gough. He was preceded in death by Sandra S., Barbara L. Edwards and Joseph R. Zappa.
Oldford was a loving and generous man who made friends wherever he went. He deeply loved his family and friends and lived a very active and full life.
Please join the family to celebrate Gene’s life. A visitation will take place on Friday (March 1) at the Pomeroy Funeral Home in Lexington from 2:00-9:00 p.m. On Saturday (March 2), a funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. in Trinity Episcopal Church, Lexington, with visitation in the church beginning at 10:00 a.m. until the time of the service.
Memorials contributions may be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, Project Blessing, Blue Water Hospice, The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame or New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.