Jay Albert Ward was called home by His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Oct. 9, 2021. He was 90 years young, and went to be with his “true heart” Deloris L. Preston “Dee” on the occasion that would have been their 68th wedding anniversary. Dee preceded him to Jesus in 2003. Jay died peacefully due to kidney failure.
Jay was born into austere times in 1931. He was the first-born of Albert Lee Ward, an itinerant cowboy, and Laura Evelyn Noxon, a teacher. He came into this world on the Kentnea Ranch near Trinchera, Colo. Mother Evelyn’s death when he was three and a half would result in Jay and his two sisters, Claira and Shirley, being raised by grandparents George and Nellie Mae Noxon. Their father’s death when Jay was nine would cement their tie to their grandparents’ family of eight.
The early years on the farm near Fort Morgan, Colo., with all its wildlife gave Jay an insatiable appetite for adventures great and small. The life that unfolded was in many ways the kind of life that many can only read or dream of today. Looking back, Jay Ward had a tireless habit of tinkering, adventuring and documenting through film, pictures and recordings. Jay said, “Somehow you want to express yourself, which is what this all amounts to.” Ward’s one-time boss Sandy Morris stated, “He has already lived more lives than all of us.”
Dad started his acclaim in his teens. As a junior, he won the state egg-candling contest with a perfect score of 200 out of 200 eggs candled. The next year he judged the same event and received an excellent rating as a judge. He also excelled in water sports. As a senior he won the Colorado State Diving Championship with his swan dive. He also had earned his pilot license while working at the meat counter after school at Safeway.
Jay’s first job after high school was with the United States Geological Survey crew as a field assistant. He preferred the rodman title. During this time, he worked with Tom Preston, also from Fort Morgan. He soon discovered Tom had a darling sister Dee, and soon a romance began. They were wed Oct. 9, 1953, in Denver, at the wrong church. By the time it was discovered, a young pastor became available and they were wed. His sense of direction improved greatly after that.
Through his USGS experience, he was able to obtain work on a seismograph crew for Shell Oil Company. He worked in Oregon Basin oil fields in 1951. During these years he became the reporter for the Shell Oil newspaper, thus forming his habit of recording and being observant of everyday things.
In 1958 he left Shell with Dee and two-year-old Debbie to work for B & H Mines of Douglas establishing uranium ore reserves. He held a position on the exploratory crew for four years, when his only son Tim came into the picture.
For some years he worked as the ranch manager for the Baker Ranch south of Douglas. During the years to this point, Mom and Dad had been putting together the plans to become self-employed. Beverley and the Adventure Unlimited Wyoming Safari business were born. When the business grew, the family moved into Douglas. Dad worked hard at both hunting and filming the adventures enjoyed by hunters from all over the country.
In 1966 daughter Patty was born and again a move was made to Cody. During the off-seasons Dad would work running heavy construction machinery. He also spent what spare time he had producing hunting adventure films. He produced four full-length films that he would show in the winters in the Mid-West and the East. You see he was one of the first showing these kinds of films in the ’60s and ’70s. After 18 years of this lifestyle Dad bought a backhoe and went to work for Dick Brasher. After that stint he received a contract with Marathon Oil Company. As he worked, he saw the need for a more productive way to separate the water from the oil in the pits. He went home and put pen to paper and invented what became the Satellite Skimmer Incorporated. The skimmers worked well, very well. He then sold the backhoe and went into the oil business.
His major achievement during this time was receiving the contract to build the skimmer needed for the oil spill in Valdez, Alaska. It was specialized in that it had to be made of stainless steel to withstand the salt water.
When this business had run its course Dad became a Park County employee as the gate attendant at the county landfill. This job he worked for 23 years retiring at the age of 86 as a man of such strong faith, he believed that to eat you worked, and so he did.
In 1972, Dad accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and the family began attending Cody Christian Missionary Alliance Church. He was soon introduced to Gideons International by fellow brother Irv Gerber. This was a lifetime ministry of love for Mom and Dad. He always had a New Testament Bible in his suit jacket pocket ready to give God’s word to whomever would receive it. His last week of life he had a New Testament in his shirt pocket.
Debbie fondly remembers Dad was tapped by Bob Edgar to film and tape the reburial of Jeremiah “Liver Eating” Johnson at Old Trail Town in Cody. Dad was sooooo protective of his machinery and equipment. He allowed Debbie as a 17-year-old to go and run the tape recorder. I mean, yeah, Robert Redford was there! I was placed in a location to get the best recording. My whole job was to sit there with earphones and hit the on button, but I was only four feet from Robert Redford.
All of a sudden everything started. I missed my cue. Oh no, how much had I missed? Was Dad going to be mad? After it was all over, I had to fess up that I may have missed some of the audio. I was distracted and sorry. Dad looked at me and said, “He’s too short for you.” It meant more than all the whoopla. Thank you, Dad.
Tim shares this: Dad started me on a musical journey 26 years ago in May. We played many years together as father and son bringing entertainment and music to those who live in local assisted living and the Cody Senior Center. By example he came alongside and taught me the joy of sharing God-given talents with those who would otherwise not have access to live music. I am forever grateful for this time we had together.
Patty remembers that Dad was a man of prayer. His prayers taught me to enter God’s presence with humility and thankfulness for our salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and for all the blessings He has given us throughout our lives. Mom and Dad prayed together a lot, showing me the importance of bringing everything to Jesus at any time or circumstance.
Dad loved people whether family, friend or stranger. He so wanted all to know that Jesus loved them and died on the cross for them. He would often shed tears of joy when one would come to Jesus. He taught me the importance of continuing to pray for those who needed Jesus. I am thankful for the gift of his example in prayer.
Beverley recalls that Dad was a generous man. I remember the Christmas that he took me to the grocery store with him. He got flat boxes and filled the cart with ham, nuts, fruit and candy. We went home and divided everything up into the boxes. He hand-wrote cards and added money for those who had the need. Then he went out and delivered them. As an 11-year-old I watched generosity in action. It impressed upon my heart to try and be the same.
On a lighter note, because of all the Pepsi Jay drank daily, you can expect its stock price to drop. Three days later, he was home with the Lord.
Jay was preceded in death by his wife Delores (Dee), Grampa and Gramma Noxon, parents Al and Elenor Ward, three aunts, three uncles, sisters and Clara and Shirley.
He is survived by children Debbie Ricci (Vince) of Laurel, Tim Ward (Patty Braley) of Cody, Beverley Jacobs (Randy) of Basin and Patty Klaasssen (Duane) of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Grandchildren and spouses: Ryan and Rebecca, Brad and Tiffany, Jim and Rylee, Terri Jo, Betsy, Robert, Vernon and Cameron, step-grandchildren Scott and Chad, Jennifer, Jeffrey and Sarah, Amanda, Mike and Cait and Moriah. Great-grandchildren Cael, Peyton, Alexis, Vincent, Sterling, Grace, Radley, Rowan, Ridge, Harley, Olivia and Alex.
Dad will miss your smile and your Lord Bless.
Funeral services with Pastor Kent Dempsey will be held at Cody Bible Church on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, at 1 p.m., with graveside services and fellowship to follow.
Condolences can be left on Jay’s memorial page at BallardFH.com.