Welcome to the online memorial for Ron Ward: patriotic Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, loving husband, dedicated father, and loyal friend. He passed away on October 8th, 2010 in an accident flying his Challenger light sport aircraft. This website was created in rememberance of this great man to provide and share cheerful memories, photos, and more of his wonderful life.
Over the past couple of days it has become clear to me that I knew only one facet of Ron Ward. And like a gem, his was a many-faceted and precious life. What is clear is that it was a quality life, lived fully.
The scope of Ron's passions and endeavors is beyond impressive. Kansas Beekeeper of the year for 2009, active in the farmer's markets and craft fairs, a reserve deputy sheriff, played the base "tub" in the church band, was a deacon, led prayer groups, was an experienced sky diver, sport plane pilot, an experienced combat veteran, US Army infantryman, special forces warrior, gifted instructor, leader; a funloving brother to several of us; and most of all, a loving and supportive husband to Beth, and father to their three daughters, Melissa, Lisa and Amy.
Some of you knew him as I did, as a friend -- someone you wanted in your foxhole when things were tough, in a bar when they weren't, or around the Christmas tree in celebration of that holy day and of another year well spent.
He was a good man in the most essential and fundamental way, the soul that guided him was motivated by the most sincere desire to do well in all things, with a desire to help all people. And as the Good Lord meant it to be, Ron would marry a good woman, in Beth.
And that is how I came to know Ron. That the two Rockrohr sisters would marry US Army Special Forces officers was long odds indeed. But Ron and I quickly realized we were the ones who came out ahead in the deal. We married "up" and we knew it, and hoped our wives wouldn't catch on until it was too late.
Early on Ron and I discovered just how special the family we married into, in fact, was. I'll never forget when the young Ward and Cleveland families descended on Clinton, Iowa from opposite ends of the globe for Christmas or in the summer in the middle of our PCS moves. They were warm, wonderful family holidays and get togethers. At the beginning John was fresh out of high school. Jim had started what was to become an almost 40 year career at IBM. Both I'm sure concerned with their sisters choices. I'll never forget the couple of occasions that Ron and I would spend a little too much time at Lasiter's Tavern, shooting pool and drinking root beer. We learned early not to get on the wrong side of Grandma Rockrohr and her two girls.
But it was Don (or Opa) Rockrohr whose impact on us both was most profound. A veteran of the 82nd Airborne, Opa Rockrohr had jumped into Normandy during the invasion, marched with them to Berlin through the occupation, then returned home and started a career as a boiler maker at Clinton Corn Company. By the time he retired he was plant maintenance supervisor. He was a self made man, could build anything out of anything, and Ron and I agreed he had better than anyone we knew, figured out how to live life. At 6-3, still lean in his sixties, he was an imposing figure. In the summers he played golf (and could hit a golf ball a mile), tended a huge garden, manicured the best half acre lawn in the county, cared for a large orchard, had chickens and geese, and took care of at least dozen beehives. In the winter, he bowled, made homemade wine, cared for and cut his thousand Christmas trees, and did woodworking. Ron and I both wanted to be like him, to find that balance in life, live it fully as Opa Rockrohr had done, to include raising four kids who are the finest people he and I would ever get to know.
Ron and I even joked about leaving the service to start a business in lawn care, to get an early start on the good life. Ron's Lawn, we call it. But we learned there was no shortcut to the kind of life Opa had earned for himself and his family. And Ron loved his Army profession, was good at it, and had a few things to do first.
Over the years our paths crossed, what I now realize, was far too infrequently, and since has become one of my greatest regrets.
We kept up with each other primarily through our better halves and a growing number of mutual Special Forces friends. It was through Beth that we learned of life in Panama, Okinawa, Guyana, and Mexico. And it was through colleagues that we learned of Ron's exploits in Latin America on the HALO team in 3rd of the 7th; and in South Asia as a young field grade officer in the 1st of the 1st in Okinawa. Imagine my surprise and satisfaction to learn a couple of years after Ron and Beth had left Panama, that I was in fact in command of Ron's old SF ODA; discovered when I found his picture in the team leader's desk in the detachment team room. It was as his assignment officer and later branch chief that I learned of his exploits as part of a classified program in Mexico and of his work as an attaché in Guyana.
I came to realize that Ron himself didn't speak much about what he did. When on those increasingly rare occasions we did get together, he preferred to speak to what was next, not what had been. And he never lacked for ideas or ambitions. They reflected his wide range of interests and passions; and his seemingly boundless energy to take them on.
I'm sure that more than a few of us could have predicted that retirement from Special Forces and the Army would not set well with Ron. But I knew that in the back of his mind was a yearning to build for his family what Opa Rockrohr had and for that he had to stay put for a while. It was in Kentucky that he gave it his first shot. It was a beautiful spot, and as I recall, the first Ron Ward beehive came into being. He worked with kids at JROTC, was a deputy County Corner (and Ron could make even that job sound fun). But the nation was at war, and he saw a way to serve as contractor overseas. He quickly realized that his best contribution could be made in the calling he had loved as a Special Forces officer. So he returned to active duty and a few years ago spent a year in Iraq commanding an advisory team at an Iraqi Army unit. After that successful combat tour, he stayed on, first teaching others who were deploying to Iraq for similar duty, and most recently at the SOF detachment here at Command and General Staff College.
It was at the recent marriages of Lisa to Andrew, and then Melissa to Chaz, that I had a chance to finally spend some time with Ron. It became evident just how much Ron had changed over the years, and time had been good to Ron. He had achieved what we both had set out to do so many years before. Find balance, live life fully, make friends, love and cherish family, and embrace your passions. It was evident to me that Ron was happy, and satisfied. An inner calm shone through, and I was never happier for my friend and brother.
Beth has noted to me and several others that the week before Ron's death, their time spent with Andrew and Lisa and Jonny and Amy out at the Ward place, was some of the most satisfying and enjoyable family time they had ever spent together. I know that Ron's smiling about that -- he had arrived finally at where he had set out over thirty years before.
We each remember Ron fondly from our friendships made in one of the facets of Ron's life. And Ron's good nature, sense of humor, and infectious optimism, made it easy for him to make lasting friendships quickly. He gave to others, he gave back to his community, and he was there for each of us when we needed him. But what is truly remarkable about Ron is the number of accomplishments and friends he earned in the summation of the many facets of the gem that was to make up his life. Those who knew Ron knew they were lucky.
Many of you came here today strangers to each other, unknowing that you shared a common bond, each of you, in your friendship with Ron Ward. I am convinced Ron would want us to leave today as friends, brought together in remembrance of him.
Like Opa Rockrohr, the Lord called Ron earlier than we would have wanted; and like him as well, Ron died doing what he loved to do. I can only think that the Lord wanted another Green Beret to join that 82nd Airborne paratrooper in Heaven's Army; or, maybe and more likely, He wanted Ron to help with Heaven's bees.
I will miss my friend.
Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Ward, 53, Leavenworth
Funeral service for Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Cleve Ward will be held Sunday, October 17, 2010, 3:00 p.m. at the Pioneer Chapel, 500 Pope Avenue, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Ron Ward died October 8, in an accident flying his Challenger light sport aircraft.
Joseph Cleve & Thora Louise (Driggers) Ward's son Ron was born July 5, 1957 in Tampa, Florida.
LTC Ward served his country for 31 years in the U.S. Army, first in the Infantry and later in Special Forces. He earned an AA degree in Criminal Justice, a BS in Liberal Arts and a Master of Arts in Military Studies with emphasis in Unconventional Warfare/Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. Other military training included: Command and General Staff College, Contemporary Insurgent Warfighters Course, DoD Hostage Survival Course, Joint Military Attache' School, Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, Special Operations Staff Officer, Special Forces Qualification Course, Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced course, Military Freefall Parachutist, Special Forces Combat Dive and Combat Dive Supervisor, Airborne Basic and Advanced School, Pathfinder School, RANGER School and Infantry Mortar Platoon.
His commands included Infantry Platoon Leader, Special Forces Operational Detachment Commander in Panama, Infantry Company Commander, Special Forces Battalion Operations Officer in Japan, Special Operations Staff Officer, Assistant Army Attache in Mexico, Defense and Army Attache Commander in Suriname. He also was Senior ROTC Assistant Professor of Military Science, JROTC Military Science Department Head, Force Protection/Security Coordinator in Afghanistan, Staff Group Leader at the Combined Arms and Services Staff School and Special Operations Chief Curriculum/Course Designer and Instructor in Kuwait, Team Chief of a Brigade Border Transition Team in Iraq and was currently employed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas as Deputy Director with Combined Arms Center SOF Cell.
LTC Ward was a member of the American Military Retiree Association, AUSA, American Legion, AAFMA, VFW, NRA, MOAA, Command Parachute Team and Special Forces Association. Locally he was a member of the Northeast Kansas Beekeepers Association, Kansas Honey Producers Association, American Apitherapy and the Round Prairie Community Church where he served as an Elder and played the Whalebone bass in the church band. He had previously served on the Lansing Police Department as a Reserve.
Ron married Beth Rockrohr in Copperas Cove, Texas on March 22, 1980. They have three beautiful daughters: Melissa (Chaz) Brugh, Georgetown, KY, Lisa (Andrew) Woolridge, Easton, KS and Amy Ward (Fiancee Johnny Briggs) Colorado Springs, CO. Ron and Beth own and operate Hillside Honey and are very active in local farmer's markets.
Preceding him if his death are Ron's parents, father-in-law and mother-in-law. Besides his loving family, survivors include his sister, Sharon Ward, brother-in-laws, sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Make-a-Wish Foundation or Mission Aviation Fellowship. Arrangements provided by Davis Funeral Chapel in Leavenworth, KS.
It’s been almost three years since the passing of my friend Ron. Hardly a week goes by without something reminding me of him, and how he impacted my life. I was lucky enough to know him during our formative years. He was 22 and I was 20, on my second posting in my first enlistment and him fresh out of G.M.A., taking on his rookie command with the First Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood Texas. The First Team spent a lot of time in the field, and though I thought myself a seasoned trooper, watching Ron work gave me a better understanding of my shortcomings. Fort Hood was rife with racial tension in 1980’s. There were many incidents that kept the pot simmering and as a newly minted “butter-bar” “Lt.” Ward found himself sitting on a powder keg in our Heavy Weapons Platoon. There were a number of E-4’s that were "promote-able", and whereas the “whites” believed their path to sergeant was achieved through in depth knowledge of the “field”, and soldiering, it was my observation that the “blacks” tended to excel more in garrison and the politics associated with it. This caused tension due to a mistaken perception that the garrison path was a fast track to E-5. Payday weekends in the barracks were always a mix of alcohol, boredom, and frustration at the disproportionate ratio of males to females on post. This invariably led to about 6 hours of violent activity for anyone lucky enough to draw C.Q. (Charge of Quarters) on that weekend. As a Corporal, I pulled my share of payday weekends, where as a young officer, Ron seemed to draw duty at the same time. Things got pretty intense one night when an insurance agent brought a keg of beer to the parking lot in front of the barracks, in a successful attempt to lubricate the wheels of commerce before selling a policy. After getting them drunk and taking their money, I was left with the task of calming them down and getting them to sleep it off, when a gang of about 15 broke, drunk, privates decided to “kick my white a##!” just for something to do. Things weren't looking good, and as I backed into a corner with my nightstick, calculating who was going to the hospital with me, in walks Lt. Ward. Now most officers I had encountered up to this point in my Army career would have run the other direction or stood outside and called the MP’s, but in he strides right to the middle of the pack! Standing between me and the crowd, he tells them they have 10 seconds to clear the halls and get back to their rooms, to which the ringleader, a punk named Littlejohn says, “or what??” Ron walks directly up to him, looks him in the eyes, and calmly says, “Well, after I break your arm AND your leg, I’ll have the MP’s haul you off to jail, and I will guarantee you will be spending the next 5 years in Leavenworth for assaulting an Officer.” After a few tense seconds (it seemed like minutes) Littlejohn looked away and then the hallway cleared in 10 seconds. I was left standing there, wondering what the heck just happened. As I said, he was 22 years old. Although memorable, this was not incident that had the biggest impact on me, but was a good back story for what came later. As I stated, there were some potential problems in our unit. Recruitment in 1980's was low and we were using junior NCO’s to fill slots normally allocated to higher pay grades. As a Corporal I was put in charge the F.D.C. (Fire Direction Center) normally an E-6 slot, but filled by me due to no qualified senior personnel in the platoon. We were on an extended F.T.X. and Ron knew there were problems in the unit because of his 7 NCO’s, SFC Moynihan and I were the only ones proficient at map reading and land navigation. I had been passed over for promotion (due to a hot-headed exchange I had with the First Sergeant) and when Ron gathered the NCO’s together for the Land Nav. class, I was just sitting back waiting for the “fun “to begin. We piled into a gun track and with S.F.C. Moynihan holding down the T.O.C., Lt. Ward had all of us take turns commanding the track while he gave instructions and observed. I was the last one in the TC hatch, and having followed the progress of the rest of the group all afternoon, I knew two things: 1.) We were nowhere close to where Ron wanted us to be, and 2.) Ron and I were the only two people in the track that actually knew where we were! I felt pretty smug about that, and when I reached our objective 15 minutes after taking over and he told me to take us home, I was riding high in my self-importance. Arriving back at bivoc, Ron gathered us for debriefing, and what I hoped to be a major butt chewing over the obvious incompetence of the platoon leadership. I was surprised when in place of stomping around and growling, he instead produced detailed notes on each of our performances, and action items he wanted us to work on. After dismissing the rest of the crew he smiled and told me to hold up, he wanted to talk in private. “Good!” I thought,” he’s going to acknowledge what an excellent job I did, and how important I was to the overall success of the mission.” Rather he put me at “Attention”, and commenced to unleash the butt-chewing on me that I thought everyone else deserved! “What was the idea of not helping out my brothers when you saw them struggling…I don’t care if they are black, white, blue or purple, they are your team…how could you expect to lead men in combat if you couldn't lead them in training… If we got dropped into Moscow tomorrow what kind of unit would we be?” On and on for 5 minutes with my face burning from embarrassment and my eyes stinging with tears of frustration! His closing words were perhaps the hardest to listen to, “...you really disappointed me. Out of all the men, I thought I could count on you.” OUCH! He then told me that it was my responsibility to make sure everyone knew how to read a map by the end of the FTX. I was pissed, but I had a long time to think about it on radio watch that night. The next day I grabbed Sgt. Stanley (one of the guys who was struggling the most) went into the F.D.C., pulled out the maps and started to explain to him the basics of land navigation. SGT. Stanley as ranking squad leader pulled the rest of the guys in, and before I know it I was teaching a class. We were out in the field two more weeks, and by the end of the exercise I was pretty confident in our platoons ability to get from point “A” to point ”B” without getting lost. Ron never talked to me about it after that, but as I got to know the other NCO’s in the platoon we actually started to like and respect one another. Ron did a lot of things to build morale too: platoon picnics, softball and rugby, a raft race at Baylor College where we got choppered in (to the delight of more co-eds than I’d seen in the preceding 3 years), and commanding our all-volunteer Battalion Pathfinder Team, the “Wolf Pack”. He taught me a lot of things in the two years we were together, but the one thing that I carried with me over 33 years is that a Team is not about what I can do, but what everyone can do together. He was a born leader and a good friend. The world is diminished without him.
Mr. Ward was the first male Christian role model I remember having. I vividly remember him assistant coaching soccer games for his daughter Lisa and my team. He was always there with a fun loving spirit and a smile on his face. His expectations of our language, attitude, and the way we treated our opponents were much higher than I had ever known before. He never reprimanded us, but always offered gentle words of encouragement. He was a great role model to me and I'm thankful for the time I got to spend with him.
Beth, you are always in my thoughts and prayers. I wish I had met your husband, but knowing you and how much you loved him tells me all I need to know, he was a wonderful man. You have a lot of friends to help you through the rough times, so don't be afraid to ask us or lean on us. Hugs and blessings to you and your girls.
It seems like just a short time ago that Ron was taken from his family and the rest of us. I know he was the epitome of Father, Husband and Soldier. I also know he is very proud of his family - His wife Beth and his three daughters - how they are such strong independent women and how well they are doing with their lives. I hope the old adage of "when a door closes, a window opens" hold true for all of the Ward family. We miss you Ron.
I'm a late-comer to this news; it's taken me several days of thought and sadness to write this. The GMC alumni magazine came the other day with Ron's name listed, a shock. A hurried search of the internet filled in the rest of the details, including the very, very moving video of the USSOCOM jump with his ashes. That great photo of Ron by the capitol building at GMC on this wonderful tribute site is the way I'm sure all the brothers from the Class of 1977 remember him. Looking at it, I thought of a dozen stories from those times that are reflections of his iron will, nutty sense of humor, or both that it's too bad there isn't space to share. So much has happened in these intervening years; and what a wild catalog of accomplishments Ron built up, and how blessed he was to have his wonderful family. Among our class of 1977 he was liked and respected by absolutely everyone for his nature and character. Universally. That guy was tougher than woodpecker lips but had a heart of gold. His classmates are all better men for having known him. Pete (Red) Johnson GMC Class of 1977
Godspeed Lieutenant Colonel Ward! My condolences to the family.
I am so sorry to hear about the passing of a great man, father, friend and leader. I had the great opportunity to learn from LTC Ward during ROTC and as the Gold Bar Recruiter. His down to earth leadership style and unparralled care for his soldiers/cadets was unmatched. He will be sorely missed.
I've never met a man who exhibited more passion in everything he ever attempted and I'm not sure I've ever met a man who attempted more. Ron is and was always the standard bearer in all endeavors. Beth and girls, I too just learned about this tragedy and would like to express my condolences and prayer. Ron was a great mentor and I'll always remember him and your family welcoming mine to Lexington, KY. Ron was a tremendous man, husband, father, friend, warrior, patriot and Christian. His legacy and spirit shall live through eternity. In thought something keeps coming to mind, "but those who trust in the Lord, will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 We will pray for your family. Brian and Kellie Wade
LTC Ron Ward was an amazing man. We worked together for several years at UKAROTC and I always admired him. I didnt know about his death until today, and now I know why his emails kept returning. My thoughts are with his wonderful wife and family. God now has a wonderful man/soldier/friend/husband/father in his midst.
To The Ward Family: I served with Ron (Known to his Jumping Friends on the USSOCOM Command Parachute Taem as "RONBO") while at Mac Dill AFB Tampa. I was a Parachute Rigger ADSW from the reserves from 1992-1995 & got to know Ron pretty well !! As he was both a friend & mentor !! Ron & then SFC. Vincent "TITO" Torres were my AFF Instructors between 1993 & 1994 when I was able to finally graduate & start Freefalling on my own. Ron was beyond any matter of a doubt "The Coolest Officer" I have ever had the Honor of serving with !! "I was Totally Shocked to hear of his Untimely Passing" !! My Condolences to the Ward Family as the World has LOST a Genuine Great Human Being !! I remember one time in 1994 at Z-Hills & the Drop Zone Ron had me watch one of his daughters while he was up jumping with the rest of the SOCOM CPT we had a good time & then Ron on his last jump of the day landed right in front of me & his daughter as we were sitting in lawn chairs observing their freefall's; and I mean right in front of us both !! Ron was an excellent Skydiver & I learned a great deal from both He & Tito. Again My Most Sincere Condolences over Ron's Passing. Sincerely, Paul H. Roberts USSOCOM COMMAND PARACHUTE TEAM 1992-1995(Parachute Rigger)
Beth & Family, my deepest sympaties. I will miss Ron, he was a friend, teammate, and leader. He will always remain in my heart and memories. Jeff Ritter, USSOCOM, 87-92
Beth, Girls, Family and Friends... I just learned of the tragic news and wish too to include my thoughts and prayers. Like some on this list I knew Ronnie in high school and fell out of touch with him as life went on. And like some I was blessed to run into Ron and get reaquainted after several years. Funny how you can... run into someone after 30 years and he acts like it was just last summer you last saw each other and he picks up from where you seemingly left off. Ron was that kind of guy and that KIND of a man - a friend to all of us. A super guy with a passion to enjoy life. We are all more blessed for having known him and all greatly saddened at his death. Beth you are all in my prayers. God Bless you and keep you in His arms. Karl
Dear Beth and family, words cannot express my sorrow at hearing of the deathof Ron. He was a comfort to me after David died and has been a blessing to my family since he was a teenager. There was never a finer boy or man. We will miss him so much and send Gods blessings to all of you. Sincerely, Jean Moore
I am at a loss for words! I flew with Ron and he was a great pilot. He was a good man, too.
Beth, Janet and I are are truly sorry for your family's loss; you and the girls are in our thoughts and prayers. Ron was a great person and friend who will be missed by all. Please contact us if we can help in any way during these trying times.
Ron was my HS friend, my college best friend and the best man at my wedding 33 years ago, we pursued the military life together and will always remember his big heart and the fact he would do anything for anybody. To Beth and his girls, our prayers and thoughts are with you. Ron will be missed by all he touched with his zest for life.
We are so sorry for your loss and are praying for healing and love to all your family. Ron was a great man and a joy to be around. Joe and Rachel especially enjoyed his company at the market. He wil be deeply missed by all. We will continue to keep you in our prayers.
Dearest Beth and girls, This is so hard to write because we loved Ron so much. His zest for life and the joy he brought to every occasion will keep his memory alive within all of us forever. He was a treasure, a true friend, a beautiful man. I hope it eases you pain just a bit to know it is shared by so many. I'm praying for strength and healing for you all.
May God bless you during your time of loss. Your father was a great guy. He will be missed.
Beth, words can't express the grief I'm feeling right now. Teresa and I will be praying for you, Melissa, Amy and especially Andrew. The only comfort is knowing we'll see him again and we were blessed to have him as part of our lives. I am so, so sorry. I wish I could take some of your pain away.
I am devestated by the loss of one of my oldest friends. I had looked forward to seeing him again some year soon at Alumni Weekend at Georgia Military College, but now... Words fail me; I can't imagine the pain that the family must be going ...through. My best wishes to Andrew on a complete recovery and my sincerest condolences to Beth and the rest of the family on the loss of a great man...and a great friend!
We will keep you all in our prayers. When I lost my own father, it was as nearly as unexpected, so I know just how hard it can be. Seek the Lord's strength when you have none of your own, and unite together with everyone in love. May God fill you with his peace and strength in this difficult time.
Dear Beth, Melissa; our hearts are so broken by your family's tragedy---we just cannot imagine what you are all having to go through. We'll miss Ron something terribly and hope the best for Andrew.