Henry Ford II retired as an officer and employee of Ford Motor Co. on Oct. 1, 1982, four weeks after his 65th birthday. But he continued to be a member of the board of directors and chairman of the powerful finance committee.
What Henry II had built from the ashes left him by his grandfather was a remarkably different company from the one he took over.
For one thing, it was making money. It also was managed according to General Motors-style precepts, had surpassed GM as the dominant U.S. automaker in the international market and enjoyed good relations with its workers.
Henry II had taken the company public and introduced innovative products such as the Ford Thunderbird, Falcon and Mustang. He was the driving force behind the construction of the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit which now, ironically, is GMs headquarters. Henry II died of pneumonia on Sept. 29, 1987 25 days after his 70th birthday at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, which had been built by his grandfather.
He had planned the Bible readings and hymns for his own funeral, a 45-minute service at Christ Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., attended by about 120 family members, family servants and close friends.
Six days later, more than 1,500 people turned out for a memorial service at Detroits St. Pauls Cathedral, the site of his grandfathers funeral 40 years earlier.
At the end of the service, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band played When the Saints Go Marching In.
In the year before his death, Henry Ford II had agreed to work on an autobiography. But he quit the project after just a week.
How do you make sense of your own life? he wrote to the publisher. How does anybody? How do I explain what I did or why? Sometimes I didnt know; I just did what was necessary.