LOIS WARD – A TRIBUTE
by Bonnie Ward Elson and Brad Ward
In memory of our mother, we would like to share some brief glimpses into her rich life that touched and influenced so many people. Lois Mae (Pierce) Ward was born in Riverside, California, on Good Friday, April 3, 1931, on her mother’s 39th birthday. While growing up, she and her mother always celebrated their birthdays together, but always with two cakes! Lois was the youngest of four children born to Dr. Harrison and Lydia Pierce. As the baby of the family she enjoyed being doted on by her older siblings Mary, Harrison Jr. (Bud), and Dorothy (Dot). She has happy memories of her first years of life in Riverside. Her father, a physician, helped build the first medical arts building in Riverside and shared it with other doctors and dentists. The Pierce family lived in an apartment upstairs from the clinic, and Lois remembers that she and her siblings would sneak downstairs to the waiting room and “entertain” the patients. She also remembers playing in the fishpond on the clinic grounds. These were the Depression years and eventually the clinic had to close as the patients were unable to pay for their care.
Dr. Pierce moved his family to a very remote village in Northern California called Happy Camp. Here he was able to support his family by traveling all over the area providing medical care to the young men in the Civilian Conservation Core projects so prevalent at the time. He also took care of the local Karuk tribe who lived off the land and the Klamath River flowing through Happy Camp. Lois remembered that he was paid for his services mostly with salmon, corn, berries, and vegetables. The family did not have much money, but they ate well. Mom had great memories of their home perched on a big hill in Happy Camp with their electric generator, wood stove where Grandma Lydia produced everything from fresh bread to chocolate pudding, brass beds, a huge vegetable garden, a hand-dug well, a hen house, a smoke house, and fields of
wildflowers. She slid down the hill on chunks of card board and played in the woods with Dot. She fondly remembered her Karuk babysitter, Hattie, who taught her how to make baskets. Their big dog Ranger took care of her too, grabbing her by the shirt and not letting her get too far from the house. While her older siblings attended the village school, Lois stayed home with her mother who read to her by the hour and led her to a simple faith in her Lord Jesus Christ that formed the spiritual foundation of her life.
Eventually Mary and Bud needed a better high school education than the village school could offer. Grandpa Pierce moved the family to a big brick home in the village of Colon, Michigan, where he set up another medical practice. Finances were a challenge for the family as the Depression was still on and Grandpa still tended to get paid in produce, pork, and beef. Here Lois learned to swim from Red Cross workers at a nearby lake, and she remained an excellent swimmer for much of her life. She met (and was fascinated by) the gypsies who stopped at her dad’s clinic for medical care. She marveled at their beautiful clothes and jewelry. She also was fascinated by the gentle Amish people who lived in the nearby farming countryside and came occasionally into town with their buggies and bonnets. Dr. Pierce traveled to their farms to deliver their babies and take care of their medical needs as they were not comfortable with modern hospitals. The Pierce family enjoyed Saturday night band concerts in town where Dot sang, Bud played the trumpet, Mary played the piano, and little Lois cheered them on.
When mom was eight, the family moved again, this time to the small town of Houghton in western New York, where her dad set up a medical clinic in the front portion of their home. Bud and Mary went to college there, Dot attended private high school, and Lois attend a two-room elementary school house. And yes, she told stories of walking to school when the snowdrifts were taller than she was! Here she played in the indoor playground built into the
school basement for the cold winter months, ate soup her teacher made on the woodstove behind her desk, and learned all the old patriotic songs. She loved studying history best and maintained this interest throughout her lifetime. Mom told of Sunday afternoons at home popping corn, making fudge, pouring maple syrup over snow to make maple sugar candy, and singing and playing instruments. She was sitting on her father’s lap listening to the radio when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor hit the airwaves. America entered World War II. The family left their lovely home and most of its furnishings and family treasures, rented it out, and moved to an apartment in Buffalo, New York, where Dr. Pierce could help with the war effort. He worked at three major hospitals and cared for injured workers at the huge munitions plant outside of Buffalo. Lois would ride with her dad to keep him awake when he got called in the middle of the night to attend to medical emergencies at the munitions plant. Lois joined the Baptist church in Buffalo, was baptized, and grew in her faith. During their time in Buffalo, the family experienced trauma when their house in Houghton burned to the ground destroying much of their furniture, heirlooms, and family keepsakes. Apparently, the volunteer fire department showed up and put the wrong end of the hose into the lake. By the time they sorted that out there was little left but ashes.
The family moved one more time in Buffalo to a huge three-story house where Lois roller skated all over the basement. Eventually, Bud and his wife Lynette and little daughters Patty and Barbara, who had been living nearby, moved to Santa Barbara, California, in hopes that the climate would help Bud’s asthma. Lois and her mom and dad followed soon thereafter. By this time Dot and Mary were married and out of the home. When Lois was 14 and in ninth grade, tragedy struck the family. Her beloved mother, Lydia, was diagnosed with colon cancer, had surgery at the local hospital, and died a few days later due to complications from the surgery.
Lois had been so close to her mother all of her life. Her death left Lois confused and grieving for a long time. It wasn’t long before her father remarried to Helen, a loving Christian woman, but someone very different from Lydia. A new stepmother so soon was a very difficult adjustment for Lois.
For her junior year and senior years in high school, Lois attended Wheaton Academy in Wheaton, Illinois, as a boarding student. She said this was a time of healing for her as she made good Christian friends, sang in the choir, enjoyed her studies, and had time to visit the farms of relatives in Wisconsin. After graduation she attended Wheaton College where she majored in history and elementary education. She sang on one of the Wheaton College gospel teams and taught Sunday school in inner city Chicago. At Wheaton she met her college sweetheart, John (Jack) Ward, on a train coming back to school from Christmas vacation in California. They graduated together in 1953 and married that summer on August 15. They lived in a tiny apartment in Wheaton while Jack worked on his Master’s Degree in Bible and Theology and was assistant pastor at a Baptist Church in nearby Elmhurst. Lois started teaching elementary school. Two years after they married, their first child, Bonnie Jean, was born on September 18, 1955. It is the family joke that while in her early college years Lois vowed she would never marry a pastor, never teach school, and never have an only child. Never say never. She ended up marrying a pastor, teaching school, and for 10 years Bonnie was an only child until they adopted Brad in 1965.
In 1957, Jack and Lois packed up their few earthly goods and toddler Bonnie, and moved to Southern California where they could be closer to their parents and extended families. Lois settled into teaching elementary school and was a much sought-after teacher with a knack for helping kids who were struggling to learn how to read or had other learning challenges. The
bulk of her teaching years were spent at Lindsey School, a private Christian school in La Mirada, California. She retired from teaching in 1965 when she and Jack adopted Bradley John who was born on June 13 and adopted into the Ward family soon thereafter. Bonnie remembers the celebration and rejoicing when they brought Brad home. Lois and Jack bonded instantly to their new son and they became his forever parents.
Meanwhile, Jack continued his pastoring career for the next 35 years. His first senior pastor position was at East Whittier Baptist Church. He went on to pastor churches in Bell, California; Ontario, California; Newberg, Oregon; and Bandon, Oregon. Mom and Dad celebrated their 25th anniversary while at Newberg First Baptist, and the generous congregation gave them a big party and sent them to Hawaii.
Lois was a true partner in ministry at every church. With her love for children and teaching and her gift of organization she could always be found leading and helping in Sunday School, Children’s Church, and Pioneer Girls. She wrote and directed countless Christmas programs, keeping the troops of angels and shepherds in good order. She also worked hard in women’s ministry, leading Bible studies, small groups, and retreats. Foreign missions were a big priority for Lois. She prayed faithfully for all of the missionaries sent out from our churches, always tried to encourage them, and opened up our home for many of them to stay and visit when they were home on furlough. Lois also had a heart for working one-on-one with women who were going through difficult times such as a health crisis or a divorce. With losing her mother so young, moving and changing schools so often while growing up, going through the trauma of the house fire, and losing several babies to miscarriage before Brad was adopted, Lois understood about trauma, sorrow, and loss at a deep level. She used her experiences to reach out to others.
When Jack retired from pastoral ministry, he and Lois moved to Tacoma, WA, where they used their administrative and people skills as assistant managers at People’s Retirement Community, an independent and assisted living facility. Lois made it a point to get to know everyone there and to check up on folks who were sick or struggling. From Tacoma, Jack and Lois moved to Tigard, Oregon, where they helped out in the main office of Stanton Furniture owned by some friends of theirs. As a lover of order and neatness, Lois kept Stanton’s files in tip top shape.
In 1994, Jack and Lois made their final home together in a beautiful mobile home park in Bend, Oregon. Bend is known as the “high desert.” Always an avid gardener, Lois literally made the desert bloom in the yard surrounding their home. It was always a delight to visit there and hear the windchimes, smell the roses, and watch the birds flitting around feeders and birdbaths. Brad and his wife Trish along with their young daughters, Sydney and Samanatha (Sammey), lived in Bend at that time as well. Bonnie and Wayne and their two young children, Tyler and Lydia, came to visit often from Washington, and the family had wonderful times at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Lois always had a full toy box and plenty of fudgsicles. She even let the kids bang on her beloved upright piano. We have many happy memories of playing Rook, a game that Lois grew up with in her family, around her big dining room table. While living in Bend, their dear friends, the Raines, took them on a once-in-a lifetime trip to England, Mom was so excited afterward to show us her pictures and tell us all about it.
In the spring of 2002, Jack was diagnosed with lung cancer which metastasized to his brain. This was a shock to everyone. Lois tirelessly took care of him at home with the help of Hospice. Dad passed away peacefully on June 18, 2002, while Lois held his hand and read the Scriptures he loved so well. Brad and Trish helped to care for Lois after Jack died. In 2006 they
left for language school in Costa Rica in preparation for agricultural missionary work in Central America. Lois then moved to Bellevue, Washington, to be close to Wayne and Bonnie and their children. She adjusted well to the Evergreen State and soon became a Seahawks fan complete with Seahawks t-shirts and blankets. We had the delight of cheering on the Hawks with her when they won the Superbowl!
Lois had her own apartment for a time and made friends there, but when her health began to fail and she needed full-time care, she moved to an adult family home not far from Wayne and Bonnie. She received excellent care there and eventually moved to another home close by where she spent her final two years. This home was truly a gift from God as the three lovely women who took care of Lois not only cared for her but loved her. They called her “our Lois” and said she always had a smile for them, even when speech became difficult. Just a few days before she died she told each one of them she loved them and thanked them for their care. Lois went home to be with Jesus in the early hours of August 14, 2023. We smile when we think that she died one day prior to her 70th wedding anniversary. She got to spend that anniversary in heaven with her beloved Jack.
When we think back on our mother’s life, we find that she set a good example in so many ways. She had a gift for making all the holidays really special. It didn’t matter if it was Christmas, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, a family member’s birthday, or even Halloween; you could count on decorations everywhere, presents, wonderful food, and fun. Sydney, Sammey, Tyler, and Lydia will never forget the huge Easter baskets she created for each one them when they were kids. The cellophane-wrapped baskets overflowed with candy, videos, books, and stuffed bunnies, which she individually picked out for each child. Mom believed in packing special boxes for less fortunate children as well. For many years she packed Christmas boxes for
Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. Boxes are delivered all over the world to refugees and other children who otherwise would have no Christmas presents. She taught Bonnie how to pack a good box. Bonnie taught her daughter, and now Lydia packs boxes with her little girls. Wherever she lived, Mom took time to get to know the neighbors and to offer help and companionship. She took time to reach out to people who might need an uplift or some encouragement. We remember her baking dozens and dozens of cookies and making little gift baskets with cookies and other goodies that we delivered the week before Christmas to shut-ins from our churches and neighborhoods. Mom didn’t hesitate to give of herself to us too. She and Dad attended all of our extra-curricular functions when we were teenagers, and Mom always had a ready ear to listen to our woes. When Bonnie got married, Mom made all the butter mints for the reception in the peach and blue wedding colors, and she carried these in boxes on her lap on the flight from Oregon to Illinois. Brad and Trish had a small December family wedding due to Brad’s Coast Guard obligations. Lois made sure that the church and family luncheon were beautifully decorated and full of Christmas cheer. Mom had a lifelong love of reading and especially enjoyed the James Herriot books and Jan Karon’s Mitford series. Dad, and later us kids, enjoyed reading aloud to her. She always had a love of history, and in her healthier days Lois kept up with news, current events, and politics better than anyone else in the family. Most important, she made Bible study and praying for her loved ones a daily priority.
Lois was preceded in death by her parents Harrison and Lydia Pierce; her stepmothers Helen Pierce and Bess Pierce; her brother Harrison (Bud) Pierce and his wife Lynette; her sister Mary and her husband John; and her sister Dorothy and her husband Walt. She is survived by her daughter Bonnie Elson and husband Wayne; her son Brad Ward and wife Trish; sister-in-law June Kellogg; her grandchildren Tyler Elson, Lydia Elson Hoffman and husband Jeffrey, Sydney Ward, and Sammey Ward; and her great granddaughters McKenzie Hoffman (5) and Maddison Hoffman (2). She will be missed by all who knew her.
Memorial gifts can be sent to: Providence Hospice of Seattle, 2811 South 102nd St., Suite 250, Tukwila, WA 98168 or Wycliffe Bible Translators, PO Box 628200, Orlando, FL 32862.