Richard Elwood Ward
January 19, 1942 - February 23, 2021
Dr. Richard Elwood Ward passed away on February 23, 2021. Dick touched all who knew him with his wit, generosity, good humor, kindness and gentle spirit. He was born in Easton, Pennsylvania to Arlene and Harlow Ward on January 19, 1942. He was the eldest son of a staunchly Pennsylvania Dutch family that cared deeply about each other and about traditions, from canning home-grown tomatoes to the regular consumption of shoo fly pie. As a boy, Dick was very proud to attain the rank of Eagle Scout and attend Philmont Scout Ranch. At Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg, PA, he was on the wrestling, tennis and football teams, sang in a quartet and choir, and took to the stage as an actor, magician and self-trained hypnotist. He loved the theatre. He even had a summer circus job, where he was paid to box a kangaroo and wrestle a gorilla.
At Pennsylvania State University, Dick joined the SAE fraternity, making life-long friends. For the 1963 homecoming parade the SAE brothers and the Tri-Delta sisters worked together on a float. Somehow it wasn’t until the day of the parade that he met Diane Elaine Rogers and was smitten. He played guitar and would serenade her with Kingston Trio songs. After Dick graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering, he worked at the Dixie Cup Factory while waiting for Diane to finish her degree. They married on July 31, 1965. Newly wed, they lived in Easton and then in New Jersey, where Dick worked for the NY Transit Authority. In 1967 they moved to Morgantown, West Virginia for Dick to enter a PhD program at West Virginia University. He wrote his dissertation on the concept of a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system, a model light rail system, which was built in Morgantown in 1975. After a year at the University of Leeds in Yorkshire, Dick taught in the School of Engineering at WVU until 1986, where he enjoyed mentoring students from around the world. He served on the board of the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education and eventually joined the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA), in Charlotte, NC as VP of Education. He was extremely well-respected and liked in his professional life, and remained proud of his many accomplishments in his field.
Dick and Diane had three children - Shannon, Jennifer and Kevin. Dick loved being a father, and supported his children in all their endeavors. During their year in Yorkshire, the family travelled in a blue VW bus, hiking the dales, exploring ruined abbeys, and stopping at pubs to sample ales and collect coasters and beer towels. Back home in West Virginia, Dick shared his scouting knowledge on frequent family camping trips to state parks. He also passed his love of music and theatre to his children, through regular attendance at WVU’s Cultural Arts Center. The family were members of Drummond Chapel United Methodist Church. He had a strong moral compass and a fatherly sense of practical wisdom. He always knew what to do or say for any situation.
Dick nurtured a life-long love of travel and taught his children to wonder about and explore the wider world. He always loved England and Europe, but also enjoyed visiting Japan and Germany on business trips. When his daughter Shannon lived in France and Costa Rica, he visited each place twice. Upon his retirement, his MHIA colleagues supported Dick’s dream family vacation at a farmhouse in Tuscany. He and Diane also enjoyed travel in Ireland and along the Danube. Dick always loved trying new foods, sampling local beer and wine, and talking with people wherever he went. One of his great joys in life was sharing a special meal with friends and family, often spending days planning, shopping and cooking. He could also tell you exactly where to go to get the best food or beer in many cities.
In 2006, Dick and Diane joined their daughter Jen in Whitefish, Montana where they established their own small retirement farm. They brought with them their beloved Paso Fino horses and a border collie to herd their growing flock of merino sheep. Each Tuesday for many years, they could be found at the farmer’s market in Whitefish, selling colorful skeins of hand-dyed yarn. They wasted no time becoming involved in the community. He and Diane joined the Whitefish United Methodist Church, and were known for bringing one of their lambs to the Easter service each year. Dick served on the board of the Alpine Theatre Project, reveling in the Broadway talent ATP brought to their small Montana town. He also supported the Performing Arts Center and Wag Dog Park. Dick could often be found at Montana Coffee Traders and local breweries, where he got to know and be loved by many. He taught as a substitute in the Whitefish schools and enjoyed going to Sweet Peaks, not just for the ice cream, but because the staff were students who knew and loved him.
Dick was gracious and kind, a gentleman who maintained a friendly twinkle in his eye and a sense of humor to the end. He was given great care and love at Echoview Assisted Living in his final months. He is survived by his wife Diane Rogers Ward, sister Joanna Ward, brother Robert Ward and their families, and daughter Shannon Ward Earle and son-in-law Patrick Earle of Takoma Park, MD and daughter Jen Ward Croskrey and son-in-law Jerry Croskrey of Whitefish, MT and son Kevin Richard Ward of Marshall, NC, along with grandchildren Skyla, Verite, Adelaide and Emerson Ward, Aidan and Owen Croskrey, and Riana, Ailyn and Kiera Earle.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to either
The Alpine Theatre Project or The WVU Statler College of Engineering Scholarship Fund (Fund ID 2S098 for unrestricted graduate support in honor of Dr. Richard Ward)
To plant a tree in memory of Richard Ward, please click here.