Leo Ward’s life story reads like a piece of American history.
Born poor into a family of sharecroppers, Ward fought in World War II, joined the Great Migration north, married, had four children, served his church, and worked several jobs to ensure that his wife was home to care for the family.
Ward of Bellevue died on May 9 at the age of 97.
Leo Richard Ward was born on July 8, 1925, in Mangham, LA, to Paul Richard Ward and Alzena Horace Ward. He was the second of four children. His father died when Ward was 16, so a year later, during WWII, he enlisted in the Army expecting to be sent into battle. Indeed, he served in Europe under Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and was still in Europe when the Germans surrendered. The war in the Pacific was still raging, and he expected to be sent there. Instead, he and some friends spent the summer in Marseille, France, and did not deploy to the Pacific prior to the war ending.
Once stateside and honorably discharged, Ward returned to Louisiana to enroll in business college to study tailoring. While there, he met Oreba Collins, who accepted his marriage proposal.
But Ward wanted a better life than the Jim Crow South could offer. He moved to Seattle, lived with family, and searched for a job so that he could return south, marry Oreba, and bring her to Seattle. Instead, Oreba’s father suggested that Ward send the train ticket with the promise to marry his daughter when she arrived.
The couple joined Mt. Zion Baptist Church in 1951, where they served as members of the Diaconate.
Ward worked for 30 years for the federal General Services Administration and then earned a practical nursing license to work with spinal cord patients. Eight years later, he earned his certification to become a paralegal. He even dabbled in modeling and acting on the side.
Ward was predeceased by his wife, Oreba; sons Forrest and Wendell; two grandchildren, Jocelyn Ward and Peyton Osborne; and three sisters, Gladys Shelley, Irma Loggins, and Charleen Jones. He is survived by his son Gregory Ward (Paula), daughter Debra Ward, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandson.