Ward spends life serving city

By Regina Villiers.  Originally published September 10, 1997 in The Suburban Life, added September 15, 2016.

An awards ceremony of the Madeira Police Department in the early 1960's includes, from left: Tom Gerth, chief; John Gary, Don Wallace, Russell Ward, and Cap Bowman.

An awards ceremony of the Madeira Police Department in the early 1960’s includes, from left: Tom Gerth, chief; John Gary, Don Wallace, Russell Ward, and Cap Bowman.

Russell Ward has spent most of his life in Madeira, and 25 years of them working for Madeira as a police officer.

Born on DeMar Road, Russ can trace his family back to this area for a long, long time. His father was a builder and built many houses in Madeira, several of them in the old Fowler subdivision.  And he built a house on Juler Avenue, just up the street from me, near Dee Street.

Before Would War II, Russ, following the bent of his dad, worked as a carpenter-specifically, doing hardwood floors.

In January 1942, he went into the Army.  He served and fought for four years, becoming a sergeant and winning the Bronze Star.  During this time, he and his wife, Betty, were married.

After the war, Russ and Betty came back to this area.  He and a buddy took their bonus money from the Army, $300 each, and bought a sander – going into the hardwood floor business for themselves.

Russ and Betty have lived in Madeira ever since, bringing up their children here.  Though they’ve moved, they never strayed far, living for most of that time within a few houses of each location on Miami Avenue.

But Russ is mostly remembered around Madeira for his life as a Madeira police officer.

In 1954, he joined the police department, where he served until his retirement in 1979.

Russ can reminisce about the police department all the way back to his childhood.  He remembers a stop sign at Miami and Camargo roads.  The police would watch at that corner, blowing their whistles and giving tickets to people who ran the sign.

But the police still had no police car at that time.  If the offender didn’t wish to stop and accept the ticket, the police officer couldn’t chase the culprit.

Evidently, the kids of the era gathered around this sign, just to watch the frustration of the police when the lawbreaker would drive away.

Russ also has memories of the old police station when it was on the corner of Miami and Laurel, in the building that today is a shoe shop.

“in bad weather,” he said, “you could always find Mr. Duffy and Mr. Byus, (Oona Weber’s grandfather) playing checkers back in the furnace room.  They just came and went.”

Russ’s memory is full of names of people who’ve served with the Madeira Police Department through the years.  He can spout statistics and firsts.

Gerald Beckman, Madeira’s current chief of police, is compiling a history of the police department.  Not only has he plumbed the minds of people like Russ, but also he has researched city records and ordinances.  He has turned over copies of his research to me, and this will be a future column.

Russ remembers most of his police duty as being rather tame.

“ There were family disputes,” he said, “and some drinking.”  He also recalls five suicides.

His worst memories of being a police officer are of the tornado that ripped through Madeira in 1969, causing extensive damage.

“It was a rough time,” he said.  “Camargo and Miami were blocked.  Trees down on both sides.  Homes were damaged.”

He was out for two days, on duty the whole time.  Betty remembers that he finally showed up at home at the end of the second day, exhausted.

Russ and Betty have seen many physical changes in Madeira in their lives, but the biggest change, they believe, is in the loss of community spirit.  People used to do more together, they both say.

Russ’s father played in the old Cornet Band, the group that got together every week and made music just for themselves and people around them.

Russ remembers once when the group was playing in front of the building that is now Adrien’s, and Russ met Miss Catherine Bain, who would become his first teacher.

Russ and Betty remember the jitney races on Miami Avenue.  Euclid would be blocked for the races.  Betty has pictures of this.

“It was something that parents could get involved in,” she said.

She also has fond memories of Boerger’s Dairy, on Miami at the present location of Quincy House Interiors.

“Kids could stop there to get ice cream,” she said, “and parents would take their kids and go up there at night, to sit on the wall and eat ice cream together.”

Russ and Betty have spent the best parts of their lives in Madeira.  And they’ve never wanted to live anywhere else.

Russ and Betty Ward relax at their home on Miami Avenue.

Russ and Betty Ward relax at their home on Miami Avenue.