Francis Ward
Francis Ward


4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Monday, October 4, 2021
Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation
2720 Muscatine Ave
Iowa City, Iowa, United States

Funeral Service

10:30 am
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
St. Patrick Catholic Church
4330 Saint Patrick Drive
Iowa City, Iowa, United States

Obituary of Francis B. Ward

Francis Bernard Ward was born in Chicago to Mary Esther McDonnell Ward and Francis Robert Ward, June 8, 1933. He died peacefully at home in Iowa City on September 29, 2021. One of his favorite quotes was, “There are two kinds of people in this world: the Irish, and those who wish they were.” He was very proud of his Irish ancestry, and when the results of his DNA test showed him to be of approximately 85% Irish ancestry, his response was “Well hell, I could’ve told you that!” His McDonnell grandparents were farmers but known to a select few as bootleggers and moonshiners both during and after prohibition. As a child he was sent to collect empty bottles and bring them back to be washed out and used again. He earned a little bit more if the bottle had a cork. While his grandparents may have run afoul of the law a time or three, they instilled in him a deep love and respect for family. Frank was a gifted athlete. At Adair High School he excelled at sports. The first year Track & Field was offered at Adair, he was the Class B State High Jump Champion. In 1951 he set a record for taking first in high jump and the low and high hurdles at the Mustang Relays in Shenandoah. He lettered in every sport possible, every year it was available to him: four years of football and baseball, two years of track and basketball, and he played trombone in the band for four years. And a little known fact: Frank participated in Glee Club throughout high school as well. Wouldn't that be something to see (and hear)! Having injured his trigger finger while working at his Uncle Raymond’s mink ranch in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Frank was rejected by the military draft board and so headed to Tarkio College where he studied Education and was captain of the football team, ran track, and played basketball, not necessarily in that order. Most importantly, however, this was where he met and fell in love his ‘Sweetie-pie’, the beautiful Joyce Elaine McQueen. When Frank graduated in 1957, he and Joyce were married and they headed off to spend the summer as fire lookouts at the Little Guard Station in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. They then returned to Iowa in the fall, settling in Pilot Mound where Frank worked as a teacher and coached girls softball, girls basketball, and boys basketball. Joyce was the school secretary. They were delighted to discover that Joyce had not, after all, been suffering from altitude sickness in Idaho: in 1958 they welcomed son Patrick, the first of their four children. After two years at Pilot Mound, the family moved to Thompson, Iowa where the family grew larger with the addition of daughter Angela in 1959, and Frank taught and coached the football team to an undefeated Stateline Conference Championship. He was a candidate for State Coach of the Year. Frank taught and coached at Nashua, Iowa, and then at Columbus High in Waterloo. Daughter Michele was born in 1963. Then it was off to Syracuse, New York where Frank had been accepted into the master's program for school counseling. With his master’s degree in hand, the growing family finally made their permanent home in Iowa City, where son Thomas was born in 1965. During this period, Frank built the family a new home on East Washington street into which they moved in 1970. Frank started work at Central Junior High, which, to hear tell him tell it, was the best school ever. Here he worked his way up from guidance counselor to vice principal and finally principal, a title which he carried with him to Southeast Junior High and from which he retired in 1995. Frank spent many years working evenings and weekends as a football and basketball official. Watching him pack his suitcase resembled someone singing and acting out the ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' song as he made sure he had everything from his whistle and striped shirt to his socks and shoes. Even though he may have been known to throw a mean elbow or two while he was a player, as a referee, that was strictly off limits. Back in the 1970's when the Iowa Hawkeye football program was nothing special, Frank volunteered to chauffeur the officials to and from the games. This got him two passes to every home game, a role that he relished for over 50 years, and that has passed on to his sons. During the summers he would do carpentry and shingle houses. This was back in the day when shingles were hauled up the ladder and nailed with a hammer. Having built his own home, there was almost nothing Frank couldn't do. He worked hard and expected his kids to do the same. Can you imagine expecting your beloved children to weed dandelions from the yard at the rate of a penny a weed, to be paid only if the roots were still attached? One or several of his kids might be enlisted to help with various projects. Here's an example of what it could be like to land one of these 'lucky' positions: Frank: “Hand me that.” Kid: “Hand you what?” Frank: “That!” Kid: “What?” Frank: “That! That thing over there!” Frank had a saying for every occasion, usually appropriate, but sometimes earning him the threat of being sent 'out to the deck!' for a talking-to from Joyce who, with some small degree of success, worked to keep Frank on the straight and narrow. Of course, the threats only caused more laughter for those concerned, most often his grandkids who were in cahoots and encouraging him all the way. No one wanted to be on his Pictionary team. He would draw one completely unrecognizable thing, and then continue to retrace it for the next 59 seconds, fully expecting the repetition would bring immediate clarity. Which it didn’t. Even after his many strenuous explanations. He loved to play cards, an activity for which he had his own dictionary of catch phrases. Gems like ‘My old lucky clubs', 'Fever in the south!' and when he could trump someone’s card you’d likely hear 'That old dog won’t hunt!' A good half of his comments were outright lies meant to misdirect the competition, and more often than not they worked. He gave no quarter to any opponent regardless of the age of his competitors. Frank could tell a 10-minute story in 25 minutes flat, but for all his raconteur ramblings, he made the hearing of it that much more interesting. He loved to tell his kids and grandkids about the 'Happy sidenadians down by the boose' which was the start of a story full of nonsense words of his own making. Rumor had it he spent a summer residing with the last of the Mohicans at which time he learned how to securely roll his swimsuit up in a towel, thus making sure it didn’t fall out while riding a bike to the pool. Car trips meant a spirited game that involved being the first one to spot a windmill. Much discussion would ensue as to whether a windmill with no blades counted, and he was known on occasion to turn the car around to verify a disputed claim. There are those who suspect he had memorized the location of every windmill on a stretch of I-80 between Iowa City and at least Adair. When he sang in church, bless him if he wasn't always a half beat behind. If one of his kids was caught resting their behind on the pew while they were supposed to be kneeling they would get a thunk on the head. He loved Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Willie Nelson. He could build or fix anything. He taught himself woodworking, and after retiring from IC Schools, he sold his creations at art shows around the Midwest. The furniture he made was built to survive an atomic blast. At a minimum, the next hundred generations will be using and treasuring the things he made for his family. His kids are all adept at recognizing different species of wood, and all recoil at the suggestion of painting rather than staining or oiling natural wood. He was a master of the lathe, making items ranging from seam rippers, wands, and live edge bowls to no fewer than six four-poster beds and giant wall hangings weighing nearly a hundred pounds. The State Historical Society of Iowa asked him to build a replica of a post on the porch of Grant Wood’s American Gothic house which he was honored to do to their exacting historical standards. Frank was known by many names. To Joyce he was usually Fran, but when he was in trouble (see being sent to the deck, above) it was an emphatic Francis! To his kids he was Dad. To his grandchildren, Papa. To his contemporaries and his siblings Gene, Byron, and Linda he was known as 'Skinny'. He was much loved in the many roles he played in our lives. We will miss his many stories, so rich with family lore, his witticisms for every occasion, his leadership, mentorship, and famous burnt barbeque chicken, and the beautiful work of his hands which hold pride of place in countless homes, most especially in the homes and hearts of his friends and family. Like the forests of wood he so skillfully worked, he has helped shape us all as individuals and as the members of a proud and loving family. Francis is survived by his wife of 64 years Joyce, his children Patrick (Susan) of Johnston, Angela, Michele (John Smick), Tom (Sue), all of Iowa City. He is also survived by his grandchildren Megan Wimmer (Matthew) of Urbandale and their children Sophie, Brayden, and Xander; Molly Ernst (Tyler) of Grimes; Connor (Katherine) of Des Moines and their daughter Remi Jo; Bradley Ward (Sabrina Leung) of Bloomington, Minnesota; Kathleen Jones (Cale) of Shenandoah and daughters Penelope and Caroline; Maeve Ward (Andrei Musetescu) of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Myles Smick of Iowa City; Tyler Ward of Bloomington, Minnesota; and Caitlin Ward (Brandon Lauck) of Calgary AB, Canada. Survivors also include his brothers Eugene Ward (Crystal) of McCook, Nebraska, and Byron Ward (Joan) of Marshville, North Carolina. He was preceded in death by his parents Frank and Mary Ward, his sister Linda Fehling, and grandson Daniel Patrick Ward. Finally, at Frank's request, he would like you all to know that he was handsome as hell. Funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 am Tuesday, October 5, 2021, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Iowa City. Visitation for family and friends will be held from 4 to 7 pm Monday at Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service. In lieu of flowers memorial donations can be made in his memory to Iowa City Hospice.
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