Magical History Tour: Alphabetical Order

02/12/2014

Family History

“They ought to bury people in alphabetical order.  It would save a lot of time.”

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That’s what my Dad said as we walked up and down the rows of headstones at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna, Florida.  We were looking for Robert H. Ward Senior, my father’s father.  The day was a sunny one.  The breeze was brisk, the kind that made you wish you were wearing one more layer.  Despite the sunshine, ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss and grave markers over a century old gave the cemetery a decidedly Gothic feel, especially in the shade of those giant oaks.  Dad’s sister Rose had given us an idea of where to find the grave and we did.

I never met my Granddad, he died January 28, 1950IMG_0149.  Dad remembers that it was 80 degrees.  Granddad had been in the hospital with an “inflammation of the diaphragm” whatever that means.  He left the hospital for home and died a few days later at 45 years of age.  Dad thinks it was probably pneumonia.  Antibiotics were relatively new at the time, apparently he wasn’t given any.

My grandmother, Minnie Lee, was in a mental institution at that time.  She found out her husband had died when a radio announcer told the community.  She was not allowed to leave the institution to attend the funeral, something I find horrifying.

Grandad Ward’s salary was $20 per week as policeman.  He became a deputy at 18 years of age.  He worked the night shift alone for many years.  There was a police booth at one end of the town park with a telephone in it.  My Dad used to sit in the booth and answer the phone when his Daddy was out on calls or patrol.  Dad said the operator knew his voice, she would always say, “Is that you Bobby?” when he picked up the phone.  Granddad never met an enemy.  He used to talk to everyone and was well liked in Marianna.  He had a very protective police dog called Shino, he loved him dearly.  Shino is buried in the town square near the flag pole.  We looked for a marker or stone, there was no sign of Shino’s resting place and the old police booth is long gone. 

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When Grandad became a Federal Marshall about 1940, his pay jumped to $350 per month.  He was able to build their house in 1941 as a result.  The mortgage was $22 per month.  (My Mom’s father helped build my Dad’s family home, more on that later.) Dad has told us how his father, as Federal Marshall, used to transport prisoners.  He would take my Dad with him sometimes. They would stay in the same hotel room with the prisoner, Granddad would take the prisoner’s handcuffs off so he could sleep comfortably, even violent criminals.  Granddad trusted the prisoners and they trusted him in return.  They never had an incident while transporting prisoners.

Next, we began the search for my Mom’s stepfather’s grave.  He was the only Granddad I ever met.

To be continued….

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