John Godel Ward, 90, long-time resident of Joseph, Oregon, died Saturday night Dec. 22, 2018, in Spokane, Washington. John had been living in Walla Walla Veterans Home and was airlifted to Sacred Heart Hospital for internal bleeding, from which he would not recover. His Walla Walla family, Mari and Mark Hanson were there to hold him as he left this life which he lived with grace and love.
John was born Feb. 11, 1928, in North Warren, Pennsylvania to Robert Edmund and Corabel (Godel) Ward. He and his sister Jane grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and hundreds of miles of wooded forests, rivers and lakes. At the end of World War II, John left high school to join the Army and was assigned to General Douglas MacArthur’s Allied Occupation Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. When he returned home in 1948 he met a young nurse from Pittsburg who stole his heart.
John Ward and Catherine Ann (Tess) Bellan were married Sept. 4, 1948, at the North Warren Presbyterian Church and left soon after to start a new life in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They utilized his GI Bill to buy a home as John started school at the University of New Mexico and they began their family of six children.
John worked for the machinist union but he lived to go fishing and camping. He built lifelong friendships with buddies who showed him the backroads of New Mexico. As a young father, he taught his family the merits of wilderness conservation, endlessly exploring the mountains, rivers and lakes of the Land of Enchantment. Ultimately, they bought a cabin in northern New Mexico.
In 1967 John moved his family to Richland, Washington, where he began working with Battelle N.W. and later Westinghouse Hanford as the manager of union relations. John and Tess lived in Richland for more than 25 years and the center of their activism was Central United Protestant Church. John was an avid fan of Bomber basketball as well as college basketball. He rarely missed a trip each year to the NCAA tournament with his sons and grandchildren.
In 1994 John and Tess retired and moved to their land on the banks of the Wallowa River, a retreat they owned since 1968. Their home was the heart of the family, the site of countless celebrations where John also cultivated his love for tree farming. This is where Tess died in 2008, months short of their 60th wedding anniversary. The United Methodist Church in Joseph was their spiritual home where they continued to serve their community.
John’s enduring legacy will be his pride and love for his family; his respect and passion for the great outdoors and his keen intellect. He will be remembered for being steady, faithful and fair. He was determined to live life on his own terms. And he will be deeply and truly missed.
John was preceded in death by his wife Tess Ward, daughter Gina Lea, sister Jane, brother Robbie and his parents Robert and Corabel Ward. He is survived by children Lisa Spreacker (Jerry Whiting), Robert E. Ward II (Becky Ward), Jana M. Ward, Mari Hanson (Mark Hanson) and John B. Ward (Joneen Ward); ten grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, and niece Linda Rogers Spurlock (Mike Spurlock). A memorial service will be held 1 p.m., April 27 at United Methodist Church in Joseph, Oregon with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Joseph United Methodist Church.