After a long fruitful life our father, Richard (Dick) Ray Ward, (age 83 years, 8 months) has passed on to his eternal rest with our Holy Father on Saturday, August 22, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EDT at St. Leonard's Nursing Home in Centerville, OH. He had been anticipating the time when he would join "his girls" Betty and Jane in Heaven. His health had been declining, when he was finally overcome by pneumonia and the covid19 virus.
He leaves behind five children Denise Ricci, James, Lori Brennan (Timothy Brennan), Gerald (Kristen) and Brian, as well as 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
He is also survived by his older brother, Rex (Margie) Ward in Southern California.
Richard was born December 20, 1936 to Orval and Doris Ward in Detroit, MI. At age five, the family moved to East Detroit, MI where he met some lifelong friends, Bill Ayres, Steve Ramsey, and the twins, Don and Denny Manning. He eventually went to East Detroit High School and played trumpet in the school band and enjoyed tinkering with cars. He and his brother, Rex, were always the best dressed and had the coolest cars. The brothers, along with their dad, were into outdoor sports, hunting and fishing. Dick and Betty married July 14, 1956 they eventually made their home and raised their family of five children in East Detroit, MI. He worked at General Motors Tech Center in Warren, MI for much of that time. In fact, he worked for GM for 39 years. Do you know why he didn’t stick with it for one more year to make it an even 40 years? Because 39 was long enough!
In the late 50s the Ward's bought some land up north in Prescott, MI near the Rifle River where everyone went tent camping, and over time built a cabin with the help of friends and family. It became our vacation spot for many years and the place where Orval and Doris retired. Family and friends enjoyed playing games like horseshoes and badminton, riding mini-bikes, hiking, climbing up and down the high banks at the river, fishing and swimming there, as well as at Lake Ogemaw. Everyone enjoyed canoeing on the river as a family, too. Dick’s love for the outdoors made him a natural as a Boy Scout Troop Leader. He started temporarily to ‘help out’ as he said, but he enjoyed teaching so much that he stayed a troop leader with William (Bill) Downey for twenty years!
Dick was tremendously skilled, talented, and mechanically inclined. It is incredible to think that he and his buddies completed such a variety of projects. The cabin was a prime example. Rex and Dick built a bedroom upstairs in the bungalow home that they grew up in. Dick added a full bath in the basement with stall shower, sink and commode. He really could have been a contractor. He was very capable as an automotive mechanic as well. He built a new garage and started to restore a Ford Model A as a project car, but the interest waned. He shared his talents with his kids as they grew up and everyone enjoys their own home projects now. The oldest son Jim even became a great mechanic from his influence.
The phrase, “Back door guests are best,” was a favorite at our house on Brittany. It seemed that someone was always dropping by, and there was a welcoming cup of coffee or a cold beer ready. If someone came to the front door, we knew that it was someone doing a fundraiser or a salesman because everyone that knew the Wards, knew to enter at the side door.
The Ward home was always filled with happy sounds of music and comedy. Parents, Orval and Doris played a variety of music and Dick played trumpet while his brother, Rex, played clarinet. As a young father, Dick also picked up the acoustic guitar and sang along while he played. Us kids would join in and sing when we could. This love of music continued through the family with all five Ward kids playing in the school band, plus singing and dancing. It made for great fun at our basement parties. What fun we had at those family gatherings! Dick would grill some meats and Betty made the sides. Guests brought their favorite recipes, and it was a party!
The four oldest children grew up, moved out and started their families, bringing four grandchildren in a short range of time. Dick and Betty were busy and enjoying the new additions to the family, and Brian was still in high school when tragedy struck and Betty passed away at age 52, after 34 years of marriage, leaving Dick to go it alone. He was devastated. He had been with Betty since their mid-teens.
In trying to cope with being widowed, with teenage son, Brian, at home, Dick joined Parents Without Partners where he eventually met the next love of his life, Melba “Jane” Adams. She was a single parent, grieving for her daughter who died in a tragic accident. They shared so many wonderful qualities. They found comfort together, they fell in love and married October 12, 1991. They moved in together, families became acquainted and a new chapter of love was underway.
Dick and Jane created their own hideaway up north on Lake Ogemaw. They found a piece of property on the lake with an older mobile home and it was a wonderful escape at the end of the work week. They were like kids in love, writing love notes on Post-it Notes, leaving them at every turn. The mobile home gave way to new construction, and before you know it, they were off to Florida to live. Life was pretty great. Living in Naples, FL they made so many friends. They were active at their church, popular in the congregation. Their names, being like the childhood storybook characters from school, “Fun with Dick and Jane,” people always remembered them. They did have fun with that.
After 20 wonderful years of marriage, Dick was left on his own, once again, due to fatal post-operative complications Jane suffered after what was successful knee surgery. They spoke that morning while he was out walking their dog Mandy, before he left to go pick her up. She was talking about how she was hungry and couldn’t wait for breakfast to arrive. When he walked through the door of her room it was a frightening scene. He realized that her life was in danger and in minutes, she was gone.
April, 2012, Dick buried his wife and returned to Florida where he got more bad news. His doctor thought they better review some tests he took for prostate cancer and his dentist wanted to talk with him about gum disease. How much can one person take? Well, he faced it all and came out on the other side, a winner. It was hard for him, but he persisted.
October, 2016, Dick made it out to California to visit his brother, Rex and wife Margie and daughter, Denise and her family. It was a wonderful time of reconnecting, reminiscing, enjoying the company of family and making plans to return in a few months with his granddaughter, Christina. When he returned to Michigan, he and son Jim were working on a project together and Jim noticed that Dick was short of breath without much exertion. They got in touch with the doctor and it was evident that heart surgery was necessary for survival. The bypass surgery was done successfully at the first of the year in 2016, but recuperation was going to take some time. Bypass surgery can give a person a new lease on life because of the improved circulation, but this time it broke plaque loose and he suffered a stroke that caused right-sided weakness. Another hurdle faced and dealt with.
The stroke was a huge hurdle and Dick was unable to bounce back and stay on his own. He needed to move to assisted living. He ended up moving to Ohio at St. Leonard’s Nursing Home near daughter, Lori. She and her husband Timothy were always there to spend time and assist him. Having an easy going, fun loving and caring personality, it made him popular among staff and residents. After three years at St Leonard’s, on Friday, August 7 our worst fears were realized and Richard was diagnosed with pneumonia and the novel corona virus, Covid19. In only two weeks time, he succumbed to the illness and went peacefully in his sleep. Due to the restrictions concerning Covid19, no in-person visitation was permitted. Lori came by for a window visit the night before his passing and he was asleep, so she let him be, but she got the call in the morning that he had passed at 7:00 a.m. If only we could have been allowed to be beside him one more time. He was always there for us.
Rest in peace, Daddy. Give our love to Mom and Jane in Heaven.
With eternal love from your whole family
Due to the social restrictions of the Covid19 virus, funeral arrangements are limited.
Richard’s interment will take place on Thursday, August 27, 2020 at 11:30am at Resurrection Cemetery, 18201 Clinton River Road in Clinton Township, 48038.