MADISON — Gary Ward leaves behind a legacy of being a man who committed his life to his family, community and his faith.

Members of the Madison and Anson communities gathered Saturday to celebrate Ward, 86, who died on Aug. 19 in Anson when he backed his car out of parking spaces in front of the Good & Plenty Diner, hit another vehicle, and went into the Kennebec River.

He was remembered Saturday by his nephew, Tim Curtis, as a master storyteller who had countless tales to tell through his tenure at the fire department, his mischievous adventures during his youth and times spent at the Good & Plenty Diner each morning over “breakfast with the boys, solving all of the world’s problems.”

The service began with remarks from Pastor Tobin Curtis of the Christ Community Fellowship in Madison, where Ward was a longtime member. Curtis also has a longstanding family connection with Ward through his cousin, Tim Curtis.

“A number of us are here because we’re friends, classmates, may know him from church or as a firefighter,” Tobin Curtis said. “Recently, maybe someone became friends with him because he helped you become familiar with various Medicare plans.”

Joe Newton, cousin of Gary Ward, talks about the dear relationship they shared as he memorializes him Saturday during funeral services at Madison Area Memorial High School. Ward died Aug. 19. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Following these remarks, Curtis led the room through a rendition of “Amazing Grace” and later with “How Great Thou Art.”

The service was held in the gymnasium at Madison Area Memorial High School and several members of Ward’s family and the fire department he served spoke up to share stories and eulogize a man who gave decades of his life to serving others.

Ward was born July 3, 1935, in Brooks. The oldest of four children, he spent the early years of his life on a family farm in Jackson. Survivors include his three sisters, Deanna, Linda and Sally; three sons, Michael, Ron and Billy; cousins; and grandchildren. Another son, David, and his wife, Phyllis, died earlier.

His family moved an estimated nine times during the Great Depression, eventually settling in Anson. When he turned 18 in 1953, he joined the Army National Guard and served for 12 years before retiring in 1964. He spent most of his life in Anson and spent the last 12 years living in Madison.

April 13, 1970, marked Ward’s first day working for the Anson Fire Department; within nine years, he was promoted to fire chief, a position he held until 1983. It was then that decided to step down to lesser roles and slowly transition from working full-time at the department to being a “house man” for the department.

Jeremy Manzer of the Anson Fire Department shared a story that Ward often told about his first call within a week of being promoted to fire chief back in the ’70s.

Jeremy Manzer, fire chief in Anson, becomes emotional Saturday as he eulogizes the life of longtime Anson firefighter Gary Ward during a memorial service at Madison Area Memorial High School. Ward died Aug. 19. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Ward was over at the Madison Fire Department when the fire horns across the river in Anson started ringing. Manzer recalls Ward’s excitement on it being his first call as chief, speeding off in his truck to the scene of a building fire, which was located in Anson across the old town hall.

“He got to the building and he didn’t have a friggin’ clue what to do,” Manzer said. “The building was going like a freight train and this was before radios, so he stood in the middle of the street, yelling to the Town Office, “Call Madison! Call North Anson! Call everyone!””

“And there’s poor Gary, standing in the middle of the street, as flustered as could be, probably trying to get his pipe lit,” Manzer said.

Years later, a building that would house Anson Insurance, where he was an agent and co-owner, was built on the site of that fire.

As the House Man at the department, where he would often be the first to the station and made sure the trucks were started, the station was open and everyone knew where they were going and make the coffee.

“Depending on how big the call was and how serious things were always determined as to whether or not he remembered to put the filter in the coffee pot,” Manzer said.

The service concluded with a Fireman’s Last Call to commemorate Ward’s end of service on Aug. 19. The bell was rung three times to celebrate his 51 years of service to his fire department and to acknowledge that his tasks were completed and his duties were well done.

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