DeFord was born on October 17, 1921 in the Ohio State University Hospital to Harry Edwin Schwall and Carolyn Vashti Schwall.
DeFord played football for Wauseon High School, and then briefly, for Ohio Northern University. He reported that he quickly discovered that he was not college football material and he turned in his uniform. In June, 1942, one year into law school, he was “invited to join the war effort.”
DeFord served as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles”. He was assigned to the 377th PFA. As a qualified glider man, in combat, he was assigned to the 907th GFA, and then as a Forward Observer with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment where he directed artillery fire in Holland and in Bastogne. He was part of “Operation Market Garden” in 1944, the Allied liberation of Holland. He was awarded three Battle Stars, an Arrow Head, parachutist and glider wings, a Purple Heart with an oak cluster, a Bronze Star, the Division Honors of the Presidential Citation with oak leaf cluster, the Dutch Order of Wilhelm, and the Belgian Fouragere. In 2014, DeFord was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, which recognizes a veteran’s outstanding contributions to his community.
After the war, he returned to ONU to finish his law degree. There he met Lois May Snee of Clairton, PA. They were married in 1946 after what DeFord called “serious competition from a fraternity brother who was a WWII fighter pilot.” DeFord graduated from ONU with a Doctor of Laws degree.
DeFord and Lois had three children: Susan, currently a French teacher in LaGrange, Illinois; Thomas, a retired attorney and musician residing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and Jack, an elementary school teacher, who died from a heart attack at age 32 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
DeFord practiced law in Columbus as a trial attorney prior to joining his father’s insurance firm in Wauseon. His wife, Lois, taught for over twenty-five years in Wauseon schools. She died in 2006. DeFord believed that the future of America is in the hands of our teachers. He established in honor of his wife, Lois, a scholarship fund for Wauseon High School graduates desiring to become teachers.
DeFord was a member of the Wauseon VFW Post #7424, and the DAV. For over 25 years he was Americanism Chairman, and later, Commander of the Wauseon American Legion Post #265
In Wauseon, DeFord served as Sunday School Superintendent of Christ United Methodist Church, President of Fulton County Inter-church Laymen’s Association, President of Wauseon Chamber of Commerce, Secretary of Wauseon Homecoming Committee and of Community Chest Drive, President of Young Republican’s Club, Vice-President of Wauseon PTA, Master of Wauseon Masonic Lodge #0349. In 1992, DeFord was Homecoming Parade Grand Marshall, after having served as the Homecoming announcer for 30 years. In 1993, DeFord was Wauseon’s Citizen of the Year. In 1994 he organized “Celebrate America”, a festival held at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in recognition of the flag and to honor America’s military personnel. In 2003, he coordinated a 26 CD video recording of surviving Fulton County veterans, “That They Shall Not Be Forgotten”, now on file in the local library, the high school, and the Fulton County Museum.
In addition to community service and his dedication to America’s veterans, DeFord enjoyed camping, boating, fishing, water skiing, and downhill skiing.
DeFord is survived by his sisters, Carol Louise Schwall Hackett (Hal, deceased) of Archbold, OH and Mary Matilda Schwall Dickerson Frantz (Robert, deceased, and Gary) of Visalia, CA; his son Thomas Schwall (Judy) of Steamboat Springs, CO, his daughter, Susan Schwall of La Grange, IL; five grandchildren, Laura Clawson of Chicago, IL, John-Mark Clawson of Chicago, IL, Tommy Schwall (Rachel) of Denver, CO, Emily Schwall O‘Winter (Thomas) of Golden, CO, Adam Schwall (Perrin) of Park City, Utah; one great-grandchild Peri Claire O’Winter; and his longtime friend Carol Harmon of Wauseon. DeFord’s younger brother, Thomas (“Tommy”) Christian Schwall was killed in a car accident in 1927.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations in DeFord Schwall’s memory be made to the Wauseon American Legion Post #265, Wauseon VFW Post #7424, or the Christ United Methodist Church of Wauseon.
A memorial service will be held at Christ United Methodist Church on Fulton Street, in Wauseon, at 11:00 AM on Saturday, February 28, 2015 followed by a luncheon at Wauseon VFW Post at 1133 N. Ottokee Street. Edgar-Grisier Funeral Home in Wauseon has been entrusted with arrangements.