For Susan and George Ford III, celebrating Christmas with family is one of the most important times of the year. Both grew up in families where the holiday season was always memorable. “There’s nothing I love more than having everyone together at Christmas,” says Susan, who was born and raised in Vermont. Now the parents of three grown children enjoy special moments together during the holidays at the couple’s waterfront Jupiter area home, which they share with two of their three daughters, twins Christina and Danielle. Ford, 34, and the twins’ service dogs, Chaucer and in London. The Fords’ oldest daughter, Meghan Ford Taylor, 39, lives with her husband Carter in West Palm Beach and also enjoys family time with her parents and siblings at Christmas.
Memories of Susan’s vacation time in Vermont include snowmobiling up and down the mountains, enjoying a roaring fire, and feasting on turkey, homegrown turnips, squash, beets, and Mom’s delicious pies. “I love all my winter memories in Vermont, but to me it wasn’t Christmas until I saw it It’s a wonderful life on TV,” says the matriarch of the Ford family, who has shifted her allegiance to the tropics vacation after moving to Palm Beach County
in 1980. “Now I enjoy our outdoor coastal Christmas celebrations.”
Susan’s husband, George Ford III, is the son of Dr. George Ford
an orthopedic surgeon who was part of a consortium that owned a retirement community that became the basis for Jupiter Medical Center. When the community closed in 1971, a consortium bought it, then sold the 600 acres east of the railroad tracks to Alcoa for Jonathan’s Landing and donated the remaining 30 acres to Media.cal center. The package included the original Jupiter Medical Center Kodu Tervis and Pavilion buildings. Eventually, with financial help from some Jupiter Islanders, the Jupiter Medical Center opened in 1979.
Uninterested in a career in medicine, George founded Leeds Custom Design in 1999 to create cabinets for clients of his Palm Beach real estate home painting business. He also founded Seabreeze Building, a construction company, and has been active in national public issues such as workers’ compensation advocacy.
Like his wife, George fondly remembers his childhood Christmas celebrations. “Since my dad was always at work when I was growing up in North Palm Beach, our parents liked to take all of us kids to Petite Marmite or Testa (both now closed) in Palm Beach on Christmas Eve,” she says. “On Christmas Day, my mother made turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy for the family. Then, after opening the presents, I rushed outside to swim and surf.
These memories motivated George to carry on the traditions during the holidays with your family. “Christmas Eve is Christmas for us,” he says. “Usually we have the kids here that night and we open presents and serve stone crab, turkey, lamb, cookies, key lime pie… We put all our energy into it. I even drive to Miami Beach to buy stone crab at Joe’s. We have a close family and we have always nice.
When Susan and George recently invited family and a few close friends to their holiday-decorated Bermuda-style home for lively conversation, laughter and a festive pre-Christmas dinner, the atmosphere was light and fun. “I like being together to celebrate with family,” says daughter Meghan, an architect who founded the West Palm Beach firm Tralongo & Taylor. He also works on projects for his father’s companies, including a
Renovating Palm Beach’s historic Duck’s Nest and designing the architectural interior of his parents’ waterfront home.
Fashionably dressed in a Charlotte Kellogg pink and white striped blouse, white pants, and Chanel shoes, Susan greets guests at the door and leads them to the open living/family room and covered sunroom/loggia overlooking the pool, spa, fireplace, dock, and Intracoastal.
George, smartly dressed in a green Maus & Hoffman shirt, blazer and white trousers, serves guests two signature drinks of the evening: a frothy cranberry martini with candied cranberry and rosemary, and cinnamon-sugar rimmed eggnog cocktails and cinnamon stick garnish. Appetizers include a colorful sausage dish a board with imported artisanal cheeses, olives, sliced fruit, bunches of red grapes and Italian meat crackers.
Guests will, of course, gather around a beautiful indoor Christmas tree (from Christmas in West Palm Beach, etc.) cut by noted designer Bruce Sutka, a longtime family friend and guest at tonight’s gala. “My inspiration for the tree was the water, which reflected the open water view of the home,” says Sutka. “I used blues, greens and turquoise in a variety of embellishments and trinkets with gold and silver accents and added palm fronds to it all.” Sutka is also the designer behind the Ford family’s annual charity event, Party with the Pack, which raises money for the Leeds Endowment. Fords to help people with disabilities by providing them with the resources they need to live healthy, productive and independent lives.
George and Susan, whose twins were born with cerebral palsy, are passionate about giving back to the community. The Leeds Foundation has raised more than $2 million since its inception in 2010, with all proceeds going to local charities, including service dog training. With the help of her daughter, Danielle, who works for NextEra Energy, Susan leads the Leeds fundraiser, which is held each November in West Palm Beach.
“The Fords are really good people,” says Sutka. “They have a strong work ethic and truly care about others, which is evident in their charitable giving. Creating Christmas decorations for them gives me real joy.
For dinner tonight, Sutka transformed the covered breezeway/loggia area into a casually elegant Christmas scene. Another Christmas tree she created with Ford family red, gold and green ornaments stands next to a vignette of white and deep pink orchids from Lake Worth’s Exotic Plantscaping & Nursery. “Pink adds color to a tropical holiday setting,” says the designer.
Sutka set a weathered driftwood dining table with rustic elegance, echoing the use of blues, greens, and golds in keeping with the aquatic theme. Each table setting is secured with a gold charger under a white dinner and Villeroy & Boch victory plates. Classic clear-lined crystal goblets, Parisian-inspired flatware with gold-banded handles, and white napkins tied together with a pair of smart metal and twine gold napkin rings complete the table setting. The center is Sutka combined starfish, seahorse, colorful balls and garland it seems to grow underwater and move with the tide. “I brought in beachy colors and themes that worked magically for dining and also played off both of our Christmas trees,” she says of the table.
For food, Susan turned to another friend, James Bartle, owner of SandyJames Fine Food & Productions in West Palm Beach, who provided dinner and appetizers. “I’ve been friends with Susan for 40 years and have great respect for the Ford family’s work with the Leeds Endowment,” says Bartle. Dinner was prepared by chef Julio Taveras and his assistant,
Menu includes Sconset salad (Bibb lettuce, dried cranberries, Maytag blue cheese, candied walnuts and cranberry vinaigrette), whole roasted turkey, stone crabs, roasted New Zealand lamb, candied rainbow carrots, potato au gratin, green bean almond, sweet potato souffle, whipped dinner rolls with herb butter and cranberry bread with cranberry butter. “Susan wanted a casual but upscale traditional Christmas dinner,” says Bartle. For dessert, guests can enjoy rose apple tarts, Chantilly Cream Coconut Cake from West Palm Beach Kitchen, and decorated Christmas cookies.
As the Fords and their friends wrap up the evening, daughter Christina’s longtime friend Wilhelmina Stanton sums up the atmosphere perfectly. “The food is always amazing and it’s just so much fun to be at the Fords’ house at Christmas,” says Stanton, 39, who is Christina’s partner in Thresher Aquatics, which they founded to help people with disabilities learn to dive. dive. He continues: “The Fords are so great and being around them at Christmas is like having a family where everyone gets along.”