Live Oak, FL - Ward Hellstrom, 82, of Live Oak, FL died on Wednesday, October 23, 2012 during hip surgery at North Florida Regional Hospital in Gainesville, FL. He was born to the late Klaus and Bernice Hellstrom in Evanston, IL on February 2, 1930, grew up in Wilmette, IL and graduated from New Trier High. He attended Northwestern University for his undergraduate studies, at 6'8" tall, played basketball at Northwestern and received a PhD in English from the University of Illinois.

In 1961 he became an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Florida and moved through the ranks to full Professor. In 1976 he became the Chairman of the English Department at UF. He was Editor of the Victorian Newsletter for many years that circulated to universities and scholars across the country and internationally.

In 1980 he remarried and he and his wife, the former Louise Robinson Brown, moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1981. There he became the Dean of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Western Kentucky University and also continued to teach English. In 1991 he left the deanship and returned to full-time teaching and remained until his retirement in 2007. He had a total of 53 years of teaching at the college level.

Ward was a highly respected scholar and well published in Victorian literature though his interest expanded far beyond his field of study. He was a man of knowledge on most any subject put before him, but never flaunted his intelligence. His love for books resulted in a personal library of over 6,000 books, most of which he donated to the WKU Library after his retirement.

He was a champion of equality for women and in the early 1970's, as the first youth basketball coach in Gainesville, he allowed girls on his boys' team and he gave them starting positions. The team went from losing all games in the first season to being undefeated in the third season. Many of the players, boys and girls, gave Ward the credit for their successes later in life. He fought relentlessly for equal pay for women and helped start Women in Transition at WKU for older students starting or returning to college.

He was a past President of the Kiwanis Club of Bowling Green, served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hospice of South Central Kentucky, and held numerous leadership roles in the academic world.

He was a devout democrat, a humanitarian, a voracious reader and avid fisherman (surf fishing at Summer Haven and fishing the flats at Cedar Key, FL). He was happiest with a fishing pole, a book, or Louise's hand in his hand. He enjoyed his life and told his family that often. He also loved watching his Northwestern Wildcats.

Ward loved his children and rarely missed his boys' basketball and football games. He was truly their greatest fan and statistician. His daughter's didn't play sports, but he cherished them and shared Lory's love of animals especially her beloved horse, Folly and marveled at Tammi's dependability and ability to get things done.

He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Louise, her daughter Tammi Beach (Robert) of Bowling Green, KY, his daughter Lory Doty of Gainesville, FL and sons Josh (Leslie) of Gainesville, FL, Nat (Jill) of Hickory, NC, Zach of Gainesville, FL, Tom Benthin (Stephanie) of Glen Ellen, CA and 17 grandchildren. Ward was preceded in death by his parents, one brother, and three sisters. He is already dearly missed. He requested cremation and no public funeral or memorial service. The family will celebrate his life in a private ceremony in November.

Daniels Funeral Homes and Crematory, Inc. in Live Oak, FL is in charge of arrangements.

Memorial donations may be made in his memory to Western Kentucky University, College Heights Foundation, 1906 College Heights Blvd, Bowling Green, KY 42101.

Published in Gainesville Sun from Oct. 30 to Oct. 31, 2012