(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
They returned home from a trip to find balloons, signs, cakes, family, friends, and reporters ready for a celebration in their honor.
The Wards oldest granddaughter, Vicki Moore, had taken the couple to Tater Hill Farms near Heber Springs for a few days. There was nothing unusual about the trip as they enjoy traveling together once or twice a year.
As usual they had a great time. Mr. Ward likes to look up family burial places. Mrs. Ward enjoyed fishing and got to ride in a horse and buggy.
"I feel very fortunate to still have my grandparents," Moore said. "I call them every day and look forward to the time we spend together."
The Wards have three children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Their son, James Ward and wife, Barbara, live in Memphis; their oldest daughter, Vondella Davis and her husband Leon, live in Caraway; and their youngest daughter, Lois Meadows and her husband, Larry, live in Kansas.
The Wards received a citation from the State of Arkansas requested by Representative Billy Gipson in honor of their 74th wedding anniversary.
The citation was presented to the Wards by Craighead County Judge Dale Haas.
Judge Haas once lived next door to the Wards.
"It is my privilege to present this citation to the Wards," Haas said. "They are like family to me."
He read the citation:
Whereas, the lives of two people devoted to one another can result in one of the most rewarding experiences known to humankind, marriage; and, Whereas, a lifelong marital commitment requires love, faith, trust in one another and a dedication to the constant pursuit of a strong and healthy relationship; and Whereas, Ode and Bea Ward of Caraway, made that commitment on Sept. 20, 1030, in Leachville, and since that time they have led lives expressive of their desire to uphold the pledge to nurture their relationship, helping it grow and mature; and Whereas, Mr. and Mrs. Ward have been dedicated and loving parents to three children and are doting grandparents to several grandchildren; and, Whereas, The House of Representatives of the Eighty-fourth General Assembly of the state of Arkansas takes great pride in recognizing Mr. and Mrs. Ode Ward on the occasion of heir 74th wedding anniversary and offers congratulations on this special and momentous day.
Mr. Ward moved with his family from Tennessee in 1929 to Leachville. In 1929 he met his future bride, Bea Woods, and the rest is history. They were married Sept. 20, 1930 in Leachville with brother Vaught, a Baptist minister, officiating.
Mr. Ward said he remembers 1930 well.
"It was a dry year. "It didn't rain from May to September," he said. "It was not a good year for farming."
Mrs. Ward agrees that 1930 was not the best time in history economically.
"The banks all shut down and people lost their money," she remembers.
Like they have done throughout their married lives, they worked hard and survived the difficult years and were thankful for the better years."
They also remember the flood of 1937 when it wouldn't stop raining. The family moved to "higher ground." Mrs. Ward said she can still remember how upset she got when Mr. Ward joined the family and told her that he had put the horse and cow in the house before he left.
The Wards could write their own history books as they have lived through droughts, floods, tornadoes and changing times.
They both agree that family has always been the most important thing in their lives.
"We have a wonderful family," Mrs. Ward said. "We love one another and we get along with each other. That is important."
They enjoy a family reunion each year. They alternate having a Ward reunion one year and a Woods reunion the next.
Last Christmas was the first Christmas that Mrs. Ward was not at home cooking and getting ready for the family. She was in the hospital. The family took turns spending time with her but she was not very happy with the situation and admits that she cried most all day on Christmas.
They moved from the farm to town in 1978. They both still enjoy gardening, working in their yard and canning vegetables.
When asked about any secrets for their long, successful life together Mrs. Ward said there are no secrets, just be good to each other and go half and half with everything.
The Wards are devoted to each other, their family, friends and their community.