Not many people can claim they were envied by Henry Ford. Stan Drall could.
As a young typist at Ford's headquarters in the early 1940s, he witnessed a visit by Charles Lindbergh, who was congratulating the founder for his help with the U.S. war effort.
“Henry Ford touches me on the shoulder and says to Lindbergh, ‘I'd trade it all for what he's got,' Drall recounted in a 2003 Automotive News interview. “Of course, I was 18, and he was 78.”
Drall retired from Ford in 1994, more than 50 years after that tap on the shoulder. Most of those were spent in public affairs. He died Thursday at 87, three weeks after suffering a stroke.
He was an encyclopedia of Ford tales. He also treasured kindness and character. Newspaper stories written about him captured that. One showed him lamenting a shortage of professional athletes to admire. (And when he was the guy who issued Ford loaner cars to celebrities, he knew a lot of sports stars.)
He also told a reporter he was baffled when Ford's “Mission, Values and Guiding Principles” became a centerpiece of the company's comeback in the early 1980s. Shouldn't we all be nice without consulting a laminated card?
He lived a no-regrets life. Yet I have one today, the day of his funeral.
Stan called earlier this year to say hello and catch up. He was still busy, volunteering at the Automotive Hall of Fame. We agreed to get together for lunch. He sounded strong and healthy and ageless.
I never got around to making that lunch date.