William G. (Bill) Ward

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William G. (Bill) Ward, age 77, died peacefully in the presence of his family on Monday, May 23, 2011. He was born to the late Ella Mae Smith Ward and the late Joseph McLain Ward of Sugar Valley on Dec. 30, 1933. Bill and his wife Betty owned and operated Southeastern Automotive Warehouse, a leading wholesale auto parts distributor, from January 1969 until their retirement in January 2004. The business was then turned over to their son, W.D. (Danny) Ward, and daughter, Pattie Ward Clayton, who had been involved in the business for most of their lives. Danny and Pattie continue to operate the company today.
Although he was considered a visionary and pioneer in the automotive aftermarket distribution industry, Bill's career path very nearly took a different turn. Early in his career his ambition was to be an automotive mechanic, and he applied for a position with Auto Electric of Georgia where he was told that the only position available was in the parts department. Thus began his long and fruitful career in the parts industry. When Auto Electric dissolved their company in 1964, Bill formed a partnership with one of its former owners, Ernest Troutman, to found Southeastern Automotive in 1964. The corporate structure underwent changes in 1966 to comply with new FTC rulings, and Bill took a position with Ford Parts and Service as a zone sales manager. Mr. Troutman subsequently developed major health issues in 1969, and he offered to sell his interest in Southeastern Automotive to Bill. Despite the protests from his wife and children who worried that his work schedule would prevent them from ever seeing enough of him, Bill realized the tremendous potential and business opportunity that Southeastern represented. He purchased Mr. Troutman's share of the business and spent the next 40 years forging Southeastern Automotive into one of the most successful auto parts distributors in the industry.
Bill retired to his farm in Calhoun in 2004, but he wasn't quite ready to stop working. He operated a commercial angus cow farm herd with his farm manager, Ronnie Rogers. He enjoyed woodworking and had a passion for collecting and working on antique cars, trucks, and tractors. His favorite pastime, however, was spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Bill is survived by his wife of 59 years, Betty Jean Evans Ward; daughter, Patricia Jean Ward Clayton and her husband Geary; son, W.D. Ward and his wife Jenny; six grandchildren, Kimberly Clayton Elrod, Kelley Clayton Berry, Mandy Ward McNair, Jenna Noel Ward, William Blake Ward, Chad McLain Ward; and seven wonderful great-grandchildren.
Although Bill is no longer with us, his legacy lives on through his family and through the many lives of the people he touched with his wisdom and inspiration.
Funeral services will be held Thursday, May 26, at 1 p.m. at Thomas Funeral Home in Calhoun. The family will receive friends Thursday, May 26, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to either The American Lung Association at www.lungusa.org or to The at www.cancer.org.
Thomas Funeral Home in Calhoun is in charge of arrangements.
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Thomas Funeral Home - Calhoun
535 Red Bud Road N.E.
Calhoun, GA 30701
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Published in ForsythNews.com from May 24 to May 27, 2011
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