I Want To Tell You A Story About Bill Ward
It was the Summer of 1983…
The front doors to the Cushing 1st Assembly of God church are on the 2nd floor.
The steep climb up the outside concrete staircase gave my little brother and I an extra moment to nervously contemplate what could happen when we walked inside that church for the first time.
As the new kids in town, we were hoping and praying that this experience would be better than the last time we were the new kids in town.
My Dad had just accepted a job as the special education teacher for Wilson Elementary in Cushing. This was our 4th move in three years.
My Dad’s previous teaching job was in the tiny little town of Gainesville, Missouri (population 792).
My brother and I were never able to make any friends in that town. It had been 9 months of pure early adolescent torture. We didn’t fit in and we were glad when Dad said it was time to move out.
On the other side of those 2nd story church doors, the youth group was inside meeting for their regular Wednesday night service.
Dan and I were anxious for a new start in Cushing… hoping that when we walked inside, our life would finally change for the better… maybe… just maybe.
We finally reached the top and opened the doors. Slowly we walked down the descending aisle of old wood pews toward the group of teenagers gathered on the front rows. All eyeballs were turned toward us. I’m sure I was sweating.
Things were definitely moving in that matrix, slow motion kind of way. Each kid turned one-by-one to stare a hole in my head. They weren’t saying a word, but you could see the puzzle on their face… “Who are you?”
The man up front, who had watched us walk in and was obviously the leader, broke the silence when he playfully yelled out, “Well, what are you waiting for? Come on in boys and have a seat!”
The man up front was Bill Ward.
In that one silly, light-hearted moment, Bill broke the ice for us and our worries quickly melted away. The church kids laughed and smiled as they scooted over to make room for the new kids.
Bill made it a point to make sure my brother and I were included in everything the youth group did that summer. He drove the youth group on all their trips and made sure there was always something fun happening. I don’t know how Bill and LaVonna were able to spend so much time working with the youth group.
Bill and his family even took time off work to drive us out to Eureka Springs to see the Passion Play before school started back up. That trip was one of my favorite youth trips growing up… sitting in the back seats of the church van with Crystal, Kelly, Aaron and Joanie telling jokes, eating junk food and laughing so hard I thought I was going to throw up.
Bill may have been the adult, but that didn’t stop him from having fun. Actually, I don’t know if the church ever officially named Bill the youth pastor, or if he even wanted the title, but he was my first youth pastor.
To this day, I can’t remember a single sermon that Bill Ward preached. I know he did a lot of talking though. 🙂
Bill didn’t have to preach sermons. His life was his sermon… an unconventional sermon for sure, but Bill always made his point.
His lifetime example of caring, encouragement, hospitality, humor and loyalty are the lessons I remember most from Bill Ward.
He’s enjoying his eternal reward now.
You lived a good life Bill.
Thanks for everything.
P.S. Say “Hi!” to my Dad and tell him I love him, too.
In Memory of Bill Ward,
Bill was born on August 29, 1946 in Great Bend, Kansas to the late A.D. “Jap” and Mary Naomi (Brittian) Ward. He grew up in Stroud, graduating from Stroud High School in 1964. Bill married the love of his life LaVonna Chandler on September 16, 1967 in Booneville, Missouri. He entered the U.S. Army in 1967 in the Vietnam Era, serving in the 5th Special Forces of the Ranger Division. After returning home from the service, Bill began working for Wayne Blane Ford, where he worked for the next three years. He then began his career at Amaco where he was a measurements operator and later traveled doing inspections, retiring after 20 years of service. After retirement he and his wife LaVonna opened Joe’s Drive-In in Drumright, he became the President of Oilton Sand and Materials. He was a member of the First Assembly of God, and also served as a Royal Ranger Commander. He enjoyed his time on the farm and riding his 4-wheeler. Bill especially loved spending time with his grandchildren. Bill passed away on Saturday, December 21, 2012 in Tulsa, at the age of 66.
Bill is survived by his wife LaVonna of the home, son Kelly Ward and wife Devona of Oak Grove, daughter Crystal Ward Morris and husband Austin of Branson, sisters Beverly Saliba and husband Don of Norman, Brenda Huff and husband Rusty of Drumright, grandchildren Jantzen Harrison, Kylee Thomas, Karsten Ward, Kallie Ward, Kypton Ward, and Keegan Ward.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents and grandson Cael Harrison.