Michael A. Ward
1944 - 2018
Farewell to our gentle warrior, Michael A. Ward, October 1, 1944 to January 28, 2018
Michael Ward, our wonderful and beloved son, husband, father, brother, uncle, and mentor passed away too soon from complications of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 73 years old.
Michael was a native Santa Barbarian, born at Cottage Hospital to Dora Rivera Ward and Richard Ward. He was the eldest of 6 siblings: sisters Patty Fletcher, Eileen Arregon (Daren), and Margaret (Maggie) Jean (Anthony), and brothers Donald Fletcher (Kim), and Ralph Fletcher. He was predeceased by his sister Maggie and his brother Ralphie, both of whom he loved dearly. He was the big brother who always put his family first, walking his younger brothers and sisters to school, making their lunches, and making sure they did their homework.
The six children were raised by their mom, who worked tirelessly to provide their home and make sure they did well in school. One of Michael’s best and favorite memories was of his mom reading aloud to him as he struggled to learn to read until age 12. Once he learned, he became a voracious reader and avid book collector. He was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college, which he achieved while working fulltime. He started out as a “Wilson Wildcat” at Wilson Elementary school, where his adventures with Frank and Lois Van Schaick and the other “fox boys” and Camp Conestoga gave him a lifelong love of camping, backpacking and the outdoors, as well as school. He graduated from Santa Barbara High School, where he lettered in Track, throwing the shot put and discus, and played lineman on the Dons’ football team and was a member of the Golden Tornadoes CIF. He also played football with the Santa Barbara City College Vaqueros, until a knee injury and then his army service sidelined his football days.
Michael enlisted in the army in 1966, and proudly served his country as a Green Beret for the 5th Special Forces in the 82nd Airborne in Vietnam. He was one of the few who qualified as expert with the bayonet. He trained as a Medic and as a Combat Engineer, and received his honorable discharge in 1969. Sadly, his experiences in the combat arena along with the death of his fiancée while he was overseas changed him, and after his discharge he struggled with depression and alcoholism. However, he was always a fighter for what was good and right, and after a number of years he became a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. He had 34 ½ years of continuous sobriety when he passed away. In those years he made many friends and always reached out to help anyone who was in need. He met his wife Starr, and in 1992 they were married. Michael was proud to be stepfather to Andrew, Starr’s son, and to be the father of Angelina, their daughter.
Michael worked for many years offshore on the oil rigs for Phillip’s Petroleum, later bought out locally by Pacific Offshore Operators, Inc. He continued to attend school while working fulltime, and obtained his B.A. in Criminal Justice from U.C. S. B. After leaving the oil industry, he went on to work as a Juvenile Officer at Los Prietos Boys’ Camp for the County of Santa Barbara until his retirement in 2009. He was rather bored with retirement and went on to obtain his M.A. in Marriage and Family Counseling from U.C.S.B. as well.
Although Michael was a large man, he was almost always quiet and gentle. He was not afraid of conflict, but avoided it whenever possible, knowing that “winning” is often not worth the costs. He had a strong sense of right and wrong, and always worked to make things better for others. He had immense personal integrity, always standing up for his beliefs, and being honest with others. His family was his number one priority, followed by his friends, and he was always ready to lend a helping hand. He was intensely private in many ways, and liked to spend long periods alone, listening to his jazz collection and reading one of his numerous collection of books, or driving up the coast or through California, listening to music or audiobooks.
His greatest loves were his and Starr’s daughter Angie, and his stepson Andrew. He adored his mother, sisters, and brothers as well, along with numerous nephews and nieces. He also loved his two dogs and the five cats which were part of his immediate family, and loved taking the dogs on walks at the dog park, sometimes two and three times a day.
Michael’s family wishes to thank the many outstanding professionals who helped him so much in the last difficult year. These include Stanley McLain, MD, Robert Gaines, MD, Robert Wright, MD, Steven Marzicola, MD, David Frecker, MD, and Karen DaSilva, MD, as well his therapists from Central Coast Caregivers, especially Karen Little, SLP and Charlotte Westmoreland, PT. His nurses, Sarada Lewis, RN from Palliative Care, RNs Korie and Cindy from Cottage MICU, and RN Lee from Cottage were particularly good to him and he said how much he appreciated their care. Both Martha Barsante, LCSW from the VA and Kurt Goerwitz, PhD were especially close to Michael and he greatly respected and loved both of them.
We were all honored by Michael’s presence in our lives and are grateful for the years he had with us. He was greatly loved and will be sorely missed.
A memorial potluck barbeque in celebration of Michael’s life will be held at Michael and Starr’s house on Saturday, February 17, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The address for the BBQ is: 3156 Laurel Canyon Rd. Santa Barbara, CA 93105. All friends are invited to attend Please RSVP to Michael’s niece, Sara, at firstname.lastname@example.org for the BBQ.