James H. “Jim” Ward
August 01, 1923 ‒ October 28, 2020
James H. “Jim” Ward, age 97, of Waldo, went to be with the Lord on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, at the Marion General Hospital following a brief illness.
On August 1, 1923, Jim was born in Waldo, Ohio, the middle of five children of the late John W. and Gertrude (Augenstein) Ward. He lived his entire life on a one mile stretch of road in Waldo. He graduated in the Waldo High School class of 1941, where one could argue he was the best basketball player who ever played for the school.
During school, while helping a farmer in Ashley, Jim met his future bride, Mildred “Millie” Knauber. Just weeks after graduation, they eloped to Greenup, Kentucky, and were married on June 1, 1941. Together they shared sixty-five wonderful years of marriage, running a business together, and raising three sons: James Jr., Jerry, and Michael. After a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s, with Jim adamantly serving as her primary caregiver, Millie preceded him in death on October 4, 2006.
Wanting to help his beloved country in the fight of World War II, Jim enlisted to serve in the US Navy in February of 1944. He served as a coxswain aboard the USS Alhena, helping to drive various watercrafts for the Navy. In May of 1944, Jim left Pearl Harbor for the first of four invasions, beginning with the island of Saipan. Often under heavy enemy air attack, his duty as a coxswain was to take a landing boat loaded with Marines and their equipment to shore, then gather the wounded and transport them to safety. On October 19, 1944, they headed to Manus Island where they anchored next to the USS Mount Hood. The USS Mount Hood was unloading ammunition onto a destroyer ship when there was a huge explosion, which also caused major damage to the Alhena, taking the lives of three of Jim’s fellow crewmen and severely wounding seventy more. Once again, he was tasked with transporting the wounded. On February 19, 1945, they invaded Iwo Jima, where three more of his landing boat crew were killed by enemy fire. Then, on March 15th, they took aboard the 1st Division of Marines for the invasion of Okinawa on Easter Sunday, which was the beginning of the last major battle of World War II. During that invasion, their ship came under attack from several suicide planes. On April 19, 1945, a kamikaze plane attempted a dive on Jim’s ship. Even though they were able to shoot the plane down first, fuel and shrapnel landed on their deck, killing six of Jim’s fellow crewmen and severely wounding some thirty more. In June of 1945, they arrived back in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. Before this invasion, though, the A-bomb was dropped, which meant the end of the war was in sight. After Japan surrendered, Jim’s final mission was to take liberated American POWs back to the Philippines to prepare them for their trip home to the United States. Jim rarely and reluctantly talked about his experiences in the war, instead often insisting that he was simply lucky to return home when so many men who had become like family to him did not survive, something he noted with tears in his eyes. During his duty, he was involved in four major invasions and earned four battle stars. His ship also earned the Navy Occupational Medal, which was the highest medal awarded to a cargo ship.
Upon his honorable discharge, Jim returned home to Waldo, and started working at the Waldo Elevator. After nearly twenty years at the elevator, watching it change hands several times, Jim, along with two business partners, founded OHIGRO, Inc. on September 4, 1965. The following spring, OHIGRO opened for business in Waldo, Ohio, with Jim serving as the plant’s manager. OHIGRO quickly became a Ward family affair, with Millie taking care of the bookwork and his brother, Chuck, assisting with mixing and delivering dry fertilizer to their local customers. Over the next few years, OHIGRO quickly expanded operations by building offices, purchasing “floater-spreaders” and liquid fertilizer holding tanks, while constructing a seed house and fertilizer sheds. As the Waldo plant began to flourish, OHIGRO expanded to two locations with a facility in Richwood in 1973. The purchase of a Richwood branch gave OHIGRO a second generation of Ward management, as well, Jim’s second son, Jerry. OHIGRO continued to grow over the years, expanding once again in 1989, by purchasing the Delaware Farmer’s Exchange and establishing a presence in Delaware. Over time, as Jim would step back from the business to care for his ailing wife, he would be thrilled to see his only grandsons, Jeffrey and Joe, join the family business, as well.
Very faithful, Jim was a lifelong member of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Waldo, where he served the church in many capacities. He also found a second chance at love at the church, connecting with Violet “Vi” Griffith there, whom he married on September 1, 2009. Jim & Vi cherished each other’s company and enjoyed each other’s extended families for eleven years.
Dedicated to the Waldo community, Jim served on the Waldo School Board for many years and was active with the American Legion Post 605. He also served on the board of Ohio Seed Improvement.
In those rare moments when Jim wasn’t working, he simply loved going up to his cabin on Lake Erie. His favorite pastime there was taking his boat out fishing and spending time with his grandchildren. Everyone in the family has great memories of their time on grandpa’s boats and golf carts and of the many stories that were told up on the lake. Some of them were even true.
Jim Ward was a true gentleman who worked hard all of his life in order to build something special for his family and the farmers they served. He had a warm smile for everyone, a heart full of compassion for people and causes, and a near-constant ornery look in his eye. He loved to joke and have fun and he made fast friends with everyone. He will be dearly missed by everyone who knew him.
Left to cherish his memory are his beloved wife, Violet “Vi” Ward; two sons: Jerry (Jackie) Ward of Hilton Head, SC, and Michael (Kerry) Ward of Marion; a daughter-in-law, Pat Ward; ten grandchildren: Karen (Rob) McCurdy, Jenny Ward, Jeffrey (Chelli) Ward, Julie Ward, Joe (Terra) Ward, Heather Ward, Holly (Sam) Asongwed, Justin Folk, Alex Folk, and Anna Demita Folk; 17 great-grandchildren; one great-great-granddaughter with one more on the way; two step-children: LaVonne (Tom) Flach, and Dave (Cindy) Scott; six step-grandchildren and four great-step-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews who were dear to him.
Including his first wife and parents, Jim was preceded in death by his oldest son, James Ward Jr; and all four siblings: Lucille “Dub” Miller, Anna Mae Reiff, Johnny Ward, and Charles “Chuck” Ward.
His family will greet friends from 2 – 5 PM on Sunday, November 1, 2020, at the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Waldo. Services honoring his life will also be held there at 10:30 AM on Monday, with Rev. Robert Ohrstedt officiating. Masks are required for all services at the church. Burial with military honors provided by the Marion County United Veterans Council will follow in Waldo Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 135 W Main St, Waldo, OH 43356, Heart of Ohio Homeless Shelter, 326 W Fairground St Marion, OH 43302, or the American Legion Post 605, 367 W Main St, Waldo, OH 43356.
On behalf of his family, they would like to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to the caring ICU staff at OhioHealth Marion General Hospital, and to the “best neighbors in the world,” his niece and her husband: Pam and John Seiter.
Snyder Funeral Homes, Denzer Chapel, are honored to serve Jim’s family and your condolences may be expressed to them by visiting www.SnyderFuneralHomes.com.