Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Ward had a 'strong independent streak'

 

August 9, 2018

Marge Ward and her dog Buddy.

Longtime resident Marge Ward, 95, died July 26 in the Juneau Pioneer Home where she'd been since May. She had recently met her newest great-grandbaby, Tanner Schramm, and was delighted.

Ward was the last surviving member of the veterans co-op that purchased Fort Seward after World War II. She was a secretary in the Army Security Agency (ASA) in Washington, D.C. when a Haines-bound group offered her a job in Alaska and she took it. "Mom had a strong independent streak," daughter Wendy Hogins said. She had earned her pilot's license at 19 and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol during WWII.

She flew as a passenger into Haines for the first time on July 9, 1947, and it was love at first sight. "Marge decided she'd stay here the rest of her life, and she basically did," friend Joan Snyder said.

In Ward's 70-plus years in Haines, in addition to working with the Veterans' Alaska Co-operative Company, she was a secretary for the territorial road commission, the clinic, the magistrate, and ran the school office for grades K-12. Alumnus Carlton Smith said she managed it "like a skilled air traffic controller," and "cared deeply" for the students. Ward worked at the ferry terminal as well, and retired from the Alaska Marine Highway System. She also reared four children and maintained a rural household.

Marjorie Jane Burkhardt was born March 8, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Frederick and Anna (Wachtler) Burkhardt. Her Danish mother was a homemaker. Her father was a butcher. Her older brother Bob took over the family business, and son Tim was a butcher in Haines. "Mom's probably why there are no vegetarians in the family," Hogins said. "She also hated dull knives."

Ward grew up in Chagrin Falls, graduated from Chagrin Falls High School, and funded flying lessons when she was a teenager with babysitting money. After attending secretarial school she worked in a local medical lab before assisting with wartime military intelligence efforts at the ASA. She learned that WWII was over before it was public. "She told me they were so excited but had to keep it quiet," friend Joan Snyder said.

She met Tom Ward in Haines and they wed at the Presbyterian Church Sept. 2, 1950. They lived in a homestead cabin without electricity at 5 Mile, feeding the family with salmon, game, and a large garden. She bowled in the league at the former Totem lanes and competed around the state. She was in the Emblem Club, and a member of the Presbyterian Church, and her smile is immortalized in the photomural on the Pioneer Bar.

Ward's life was not without sorrow. The marriage of 22 years ended in divorce. Her oldest son drowned when he was 24 in the Chilkoot River. Mount Jonathan Ward is named for him.

"That was very tough on her," Tim Ward said. "For a while she stopped going to church. But she worked through it. Mom was very good at self-therapy." Ward also suffered the loss of a young grandson.

"She was never a worrier," her daughter said, and chose to look on the brighter side, and to accept what she couldn't change.

She began dating fisherman and musician Norm Taylor in 1973, and they quickly became a pair, sharing a home for 33 years before he died in 2006. "She loved to hear him play his steel guitar and sing to her," Tim said. "Why they never got married I'll never know, she said they didn't need a piece of paper." She was close to Norm's son Phil Taylor, who called her "mom."

In her retirement, she continued to garden, field-testing roses for Jackson and Perkins, and took up ceramics and photography. She liked to travel, play Bingo and spend time with her family. When her grandchildren were young she took them to the pool regularly and out for doughnuts afterward. She visited the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego and drank wheat grass juice before most people had heard of it.

"Marge was a good mother, good housewife, and good friend," Joan Snyder said. They met at the early bird swim for decades until Ward stopped going at 93.

"Mom had a long happy life here in Haines. She really loved the people and they loved her back," Tim Ward said. "Haines was good to her."

Norm Taylor, son Jonathan Frederick Ward, and grandson Jonathan Baylor Ward preceded her in death. She leaves children Wendy (Gary) Hogins of Juneau, and Tim and Tom Ward Jr. (Connie) in Haines; grandchildren Patrick Anderson, Jennifer Gilbert, Carrie Wessling, Kelsey and Travis Hogins, Lily Schramm, Tom Ward III, Jeanine Ward, and ten great-grandchildren.

Plans for a memorial service are pending. Ward shared her life with many dogs. The last one, Buddy, has a new home in Juneau. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to H.A.R.K. at PO Box 1533 or The Friends of the Haines Pool at PO Box 1724.

 
 

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