AXFORD, JOHN M. - age 78, of Knoxville, passed away peacefully among his family on Tuesday, October 29, 2013, at Ben Atchley State Veteran's Home. John was born in Detroit, Michigan on July 20, 1935 to Lee and Hazel Axford. After graduating from Cooley High School in Detroit, he enrolled at Olivet College where he played football. John served in the United States Army. After having served his country, he enrolled at Michigan State University, earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Physical Education and a minor in Political Science. Upon graduation he taught health and was the head football coach for Mason High School, where his team won a state championship. John then changed careers and worked for Ford Motor Company for several years. The world of sports came back to John in 1968 and he began his long career in the sporting goods industry, starting with Etonic, where he quickly moved up the ranks to vice president of sales. In 1976, John became the youngest president of Southern Athletic Company which eventually became Bike Athletic. While he was president, the company secured college football's and all of the NFL's helmet contracts. After a long career with Bike Athletic, he became head agent for New Balance in the southeast. John's passion for sports, particularly ice hockey, led him to invest as the primary owner of the Knoxville Ice Bears. He also was active in the development of the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy Scouts of America. John served on the Board of Directors for both the Sporting Goods Manufacturers of America and the Knoxville Sports Corporation. John was preceded in death by his parents and sister. He leaves his wife, Martha Howard Axford; children, Mark Axford, wife Karin, Martha Craine Axford, and Amy Axford Johnston and husband Greg; two step-children, Christopher Howard, and Kelli Howard Morelock and husband Joe; grandchildren, John Axford and Michael Axford; mother of his children, Maggie Axford; as well as many close friends. A memorial service will be held on Thursday at 5:00 pm at Central Baptist Church, Bearden. Memorials may be made to the Knoxville Amateur Hockey Association, PO Box 22028 Knoxville, TN 37933.
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Published in Knoxville News Sentinel from Oct. 30 to Oct. 31, 2013