Mary Jo Henderson Ward

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Mary Jo Henderson Ward Obituary
Mary Jo Ward Dec. 10, 1917 - Oct. 13, 2012 Mary Jo died in her sleep at the age of ninety-four. During WWII she served in the Women's Army Corps in North Africa and Italy. She joked that she and her fellow stenographers had plans to drop their typewriters from their second-floor windows on German troops should they manage to break through American lines. Luckily for everyone, the lines held. At war's end, now a lieutenant, Mary Jo worked briefly for the early OSS in Maryland, where she met and married Captain Palmer Ward. She had to leave the Army following the birth of their first child. During Palmer's reassignment to the Presidio in San Francisco, they settled in Marin County. In those days a common belief, shared by her parents and her husband, held that a woman had no need for college because her husband would look after her. Thanks to the GI Bill, though, and in spite of Palmer's reluctance, she attended San Francisco State College and graduated with honors, earning a teaching credential. During her student teaching year, Palmer died unexpectedly, which left her to find a way to support two young children on her own. Hired to teach 1st grade at Neil Cummins School in Corte Madera, she went on to teach there for twenty-six years, rising through the grade levels, on a pace with many of her students, some of whom had her as their teacher several times throughout their elementary-school years. Eventually she reached 8th grade math, which turned out to be what she was born to do. Among her students, she was notorious for exchanging pencils for shoes. If a student came to class without a needed pencil, she would lend one but would require a shoe as collateral. No student ever failed to return a pencil. The kids loved it and got her to pose for a picture for the yearbook: Mrs. Ward at her desk, looking stern behind an enormous pile of shoes. After retiring from teaching, Mary Jo moved to Spring Lake Village, in Santa Rosa, where she made many dear friends over the next twenty-three years. She was an active and engaged member of the community. She is survived by a daughter and a son, Allyson Pirenian (Gabe) and Kelly Ward (Jeanne), two grandchildren Garrett Pirenian (April), Lindsay Menne (Tyler) and one great grandchild Kai Pirenian. We all deeply miss her.
Published in Marin Independent Journal on Oct. 30, 2012
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