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York County man tells about goofy encounter with Gerald Ford

People mistook Philip Eppley, posing circa 1974, for former President Gerald Ford during the Ford presidency. (To see how Philip looked in early 2007, see below). For an even stranger story about Gerald Ford, see York resident Bill Walters’ meeting with Ford below: Background posts: York-based historian shakes hands with 8 U.S. presidents and Clock museum prepares presidential timepiece exhibit.

Interest in presidents and politics are high this election season – even those light hearted moments that sometimes are the most memorable.
In a previous post, we wote about Democrat James Buchanan’s fall in walking across the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge.
We’ll even it out – party-wise – and tell about Bill Walters’ encounter with former GOP President Gerald Ford in 1979 – in a restroom at York College … .

Shirley and Philip Eppley are seen in early 2007 in their room at Country Meadows of Leader Heights.

Rather, we’ll let York Daily Record/Sunday News reporter Tom Joyce write about it, re-running a story from Dec. 31, 2006, published at the time of Ford’s death:
When evaluating Gerald R. Ford’s legacy, historical scholars consider the waning days of Watergate and Vietnam. But when Bill Walters thinks of the 38th president, he’ll always think of a bathroom.
It was September 1979. Ford, three years past his defeat at the hands of Jimmy Carter, was traveling the country on a speaking tour — unofficially testing the waters for another presidential run that never materialized — and York College was one of his stops.
Walters, a loyal Republican, was present. At the time, he was serving as Springettsbury Township supervisor and local Republican committeeman. Later, he would go on to become York County’s register of wills and chief of orphan’s court.
At the speech, however, he was representing his employer. AMF-York had purchased a table for a group of its managers, including Walters.
Walters finished his dinner. As he was waiting for Ford’s speech to start, he realized he had some business to attend to first. He located the men’s room and positioned himself at one of the urinals.
Suddenly, two Secret Service agents
entered. They checked the booths. Then Ford walked in and positioned himself at another urinal. After nature had run its course for both men, they were washing their hands.
Walters looked up and said, “I never thought I would have the privilege of sharing a men’s rest room with the 38th president of the United States.”
Ford laughed. They shook hands and left. To Walter’s consternation, nobody at his table would believe him when he told them what happened.
“They all said, ‘You’re crazy. The Secret Service would have told you to get the hell out of there,'” Walters said.
So Walters sent Ford a letter. He described the incident and his colleagues’ disbelief. He asked Ford to send a personal note or autographed picture.
Ford sent back a letter dated Oct. 31, expressing his own incredulity at the others’ disbelief.
“. . . even a former President does, indeed, have need of such facilities and does, in no way, find it beneath his dignity to make use of them as that need arises,” Ford wrote.
Walters brought the letter into work and showed it around. And his colleagues had to admit he was telling the truth.
“I was really quite surprised that he answered me,” Walters said. “That told me the guy was down-to-earth.”

For additional posts about presidential visits to York County, see this blog’s Presidential stops category.