Today we say good-bye to Jack Ward, beloved husband to Linda for 66 years, Dad to Kevin, Shawn (Steph) and Kera. Papa to Asia, Rachel, Vince and Stevie. Brother to Ron (Steph), Fonda, Jo, Bonnie, Gary and Jan, and son to Mercedes and Dick (now deceased). Uncle to so many wonderful nieces and nephews, friend to more than can be counted. He was loved by all. 

Jack was born in Rockford, Ill., on Sept. 1, 1934 and lived there through his East High School graduation. He met and married Linda Ragan from the rival West High School the year after graduation and enlisted immediately in the U.S. Air Force for service during the Korean War. He and Linda spent four years at Yuma, Ariz., air base, where Jack was an aerial photographer for the fighter jets that were based there. Among many famous photos, he took the first picture for the U.S. military of 104 rockets fired at the same time from one jet fighter — a new era of military aircraft. During those four years, he also managed to become a young father to Kevin and to receive a degree in photography from the Colorado Institute of Photography. 

Jack and Linda returned to Rockford to begin a life among family and friends and expand their family with the arrival of Shawn and Kera. Jack wore many hats during his lifetime as his interests took him in many directions. He truly was a “Jack of all Trades” as his life went on. From his beginning as an aerial photographer he went on in his civilian life to create his own studio where he specialized in wedding photography. From there to a family monument business where for many years he designed monuments and was the top salesman in the Rockford area. Many of his designs won national honors and can still be seen in all the Rockford cemeteries. At some point in the following years as his family grew, he put away his suit and tie and became an ironworker for two years. 

But the biggest moment in his life was the decision to move the family to the Northwoods. This was a life’s calling as he moved to Woodruff where he spent the next 46 years. Here he was free to enjoy the activities he loved so much — an avid (and successful) fisherman, deer hunter, and cross country skier. He also found the time to paint once again and created wonderful, prize-winning art and authentic weavings as learned from his Native American friends in Lac du Flambeau. Even with his busy schedule, work, and play, he found time every year to grow a beautiful garden, a hobby he thoroughly enjoyed. 

During those years, he became the administrator for the Lac du Flambeau School Follow Through Program.  While there he was chosen by the National Director of Follow Through to lobby Senators and Congressmen in Washington for funds for the program.  He worked closely with Wisconsin Senators Proxmire and Nelson and congressman Dave Obey to achieve all the goals he strived for. He worked with both the Carter and Reagan administration in the White House. He was even successful in finding funds to build a beautiful ramp for the handicapped children in the school. His many years there were his happiest years — of all the hats he wore, this was the one that fit best, the one he was most proud of. The time he spent with the children and their parents was very rewarding and created many memories that have always stayed with him. He loved all of you so much.

When he retired from this job, he and Linda moved to Oconomowoc where, with his brother Ron and wife Steph, they created a beautiful art gallery. The gallery was an artistic combination of wildlife, contemporary art, and Wisconsin potters. After 10 very successful years, Jack’s bad health forced them to leave the gallery and move back to his beloved Northwoods where he lived out his remaining 25 years very happily. 

A competitive person his whole life, Jack loved sports and games. He would cook during the golf, baseball, or soccer matches on TV, or just settle in for the afternoon or evening to watch his beloved Packers. 

For many decades, he and Linda vacationed in the Ft. Myers Beach/Bonita Springs area of Florida. The past decade they spent a month or more each winter at Estero Island Beach Club with family and great friends. They loved their winter home.

These last few years have been plagued by Jack’s illnesses, so family and friends became very precious. What would we have done without all of you? Thank you to all who shoveled our sidewalks, our roof, blew and raked our leaves, brought over great food, and kept us surrounded with love, notes, and phone calls.  You are all our “angels.” And a very special angel, Ken, was our lifeline. The Wards will forever be thankful for your love and friendship. 

Services in Woodruff will be held at Nimsgern Funeral Home on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, with visitation from 4 to 6 p.m. and tributes from 6 to 6:45 p.m. Services in Rockford, Illinois will be held at Olson Funeral Home on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, with visitation from 10 a.m. to noon and tributes from noon to 12:45 p.m. 

In lieu of flowers, the Ward family would be honored for memorial gifts be made to the Marshfield Clinic Health System Foundation, specifically for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Unit in Minocqua, Attn:  MCHS Foundation, 1000 N. Oak Avenue, Marshfield, WI 54449.

Online condolences may be shared at Nimsgern Funeral & Cremation Services is serving the family.