Wirt C. Ward

Wirt C. Ward of Downingtown A memorial service was held on Saturday, March 9, 2013, in South Charleston, W.Va. for Wirt C. Ward of Downingtown, who passed away on Dec. 31, 2012, and his brother William S. Ward, of Indiana, Pa., who passed away on Jan. 9, 2013. Wirt Casselman Ward was born in Mill Creek, W.Va. in 1924, the middle of five sons of George and Flora Ward. George was a banker, and when he became the banking commissioner of West Virginia the family moved to the state capitol of Charleston, where their friends and neighbors included a senator and one of the storied Hatfield clan. Wirt was born and remained legally blind, however his parents always emphasized the value of knowledge and a good education, so Wirt went on to obtain a Bachelor's Degree at Purdue University and a Doctorate in solid state physics (growing crystals for the earliest lasers), at the University of Missouri. He taught at the Missouri School for the Blind, and eventually moved west where he taught physics for many years at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz. Wirt married Virginia Kirby in 1966. They met while he attended MU and she taught high school level business and secretarial classes in Columbia. Wirt acquired an instant family of Virginia's children Leland Dickerman, currently of Downingtown, and Joyce Dickerman, currently of Oliver Springs, Tenn., initially referring to them as the 'wild Indians' and eventually formally adopting them both. Wirt and Virginia shared a rich, full life together with homes in Flagstaff and Sun City, Ariz. They travelled around the world, visiting China, Africa, Thailand, Europe and more. Their curiosity in the world around them and love of adventure kept them young and lively into their 80's. When Virginia passed away in 2000, Wirt donated funds to have a Habitat for Humanity home built in her memory in the Sun City, Ariz. area by the first all women Habitat group in the U.S., which Virginia had volunteered with up until her death at 82. Wirt was grandfather to a total of six, Leland's three children and Joyce's three. He loved telling stories about the 'five little Ward boys' and the days of their youth in the hills of W.Va. Although he was legally blind from birth, Wirt inspired awe in everyone he met as he overcame his disability with quiet patience and wit. He bicycled thousands of miles with Leland throughout the western U.S., including three trips over the Continental Divide, bicycled four miles each way to and from his teaching job at NAU in all kinds of weather for years, and hiked in and out of the Grand Canyon many times, utilizing lasers to conduct research on air quality there (which was found to be the cleanest air in the entire country at that time). After his wife's death, Wirt moved to Pa. to live with Leland and his family, then later to the dementia unit at Simpson Meadows in Downingtown, where he was well cared for until peacefully passing away on New Years Eve morning. Wirt and William are predeceased by their two brothers Flavius and George Ward. Their surviving brother Reuben Ward lives in N.C. If interested, donations in Wirt's memory can be given to Learning Ally, https://www.learningally.org/donors/, formerly known as Recording for the Blind. They have recorded the world's largest collection of audio textbooks, and converted several of Wirt's textbooks to audio for him while he was in school.

Published in The Daily Local on Mar. 23, 2013