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tdowling
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« on: November 08, 2010, 02:48:35 PM »

Ward helped to shape area's civic culture
By John Diedrich of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 7, 2010
 
Chuck WardOver nearly three decades, Chuck Ward helped to shape some of Milwaukee's prominent civic institutions: Irish Fest, the Brewers, Summerfest and, most recently, the county parks.

But Ward began to touch people in a different way in June 2008 when he was diagnosed with mucosal melanoma - a rare, aggressive and deadly form of cancer. It progressed to Stage 4 three months after diagnosis, but Ward didn't get down, he got busy, according to his family.

"He never asked, 'Why me?' " said brother Ed Ward. "His life the last 2 1/2 years was a beacon of how to handle adversity."

Charles R. Ward died Friday. He was 54.

He continued to work as chief of operations for the parks through much of his illness. He made his eighth and ninth trips to Ireland and planned his 10th before the illness progressed.

Last year he was elected president of Irish Fest, which brother Ed founded, and Ward planned to run this month for another term.

"He never quit. His attitude was amazing," said his wife, Cathy. "He was not going to let it win for as long as possible."

The youngest of four children, Ward was born to two full-blooded Irish parents and grew up in a politically active and musical home in Kenosha.

His father was a lawyer who was elected alderman and municipal judge; his mother was a teacher active in her union. Everyone played instruments.

Ward was active in Democratic campaigns from a young age. He was elected class president at St. Joseph High School, where he graduated in 1974.

He moved to Milwaukee and worked as an analyst for the County Board. In the early 1980s, he met his future wife on a blind date.

"What I liked was his sense of humor and kindness. Just a kind soul," she said.

Ward formed a band, Foggy Dew, and played the acoustic guitar, mandolin, tin whistle, banjo and bodhrán, a traditional Irish drum. He later joined Blarney, an Irish Folk band, which he led until his death.

The couple settled in Pewaukee and raised two children. Ward worked as County Stadium manager and later as the Brewers director of operations. In 1997, he became director of operations at Summerfest. He spent a year at Discovery World before taking his job in the parks.

A year after his diagnosis, he spoke about hearing the news.

"Three words just jumped out at me when the doctors told me what I had," he told a reporter, "cancer, rare and aggressive."

He flew to Boston for treatment several times and later received monthly chemotherapy in Milwaukee. A former president of Positively Pewaukee, he served as Relay for Life honorary chairman for the American Cancer Society and continued on what his wife called his "bucket list."

And Ward saw his daughter married in July. His daughter, Bridget, 23, had planned to marry next summer, but moved it up.

"He glowed at the wedding," she said. "He was the host, entertainer, everything. It was very special."

A week ago, she opened a site for her father on CaringBridge.org. More than 2,000 people have visited the site, with a couple of hundred writing entries - many mentioning his smile and sense of humor.

In addition to his wife, daughter and brother, survivors include son Colin, brother Jack and sister Colleen Kennedy.

Visitation will be from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday at Harder Funeral Home, 18700 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church, N35-W23360 W. Capitol Drive, Pewaukee.
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