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Brigadier General John Randolph Ward, United States National Guard (retired) died September 5, 2019, with his family by his side at Hospice Ministries, Inc. in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
He was born in 1933 in Perry, Florida to the late Ann Elizabeth and Don Geoffrey Ward. His father was later remarried to Louise Ward, after his mother died of cancer at an early age.
He attended Bethel University (formerly Bethel College) in McKenzie, Tennessee and played on the football team. At 16, he joined the United States National Guard, where he often pointed out to his family he “lied about his age” in order to join. In 1958, he was commissioned as second lieutenant after graduating from the Tennessee Military Academy. He commanded two company size units, both armor, and an artillery battalion. He later assumed the role of Deputy Brigade Commander, 30th Separate Armored Bridge, and was, again, promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He served in the United States National Guard 42 years.
John later earned his bachelor’s degree from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee.
John began his career at Ward Coffee and Tea Company where he oversaw the sales operations for the company. In 1967, John started his own business, River Valley Foods Inc., a Memphis, Tennessee-based distributor of private label tea products to restaurants and chain accounts. The operation remained successful for 25 years. In 1973, John also founded Ward Marketing, a master food brokerage company representing national food manufacturers through a network of over forty food brokers. He built a strong relationship with R.C. Bigelow, Inc. and played a significant role in growing the company into the recognized brand it is today. In 1991, he became the National Sales Manager with R.C. Bigelow, Inc. He officially retired in 2001.
He was predeceased by his loving wife of 63 years, Sara Cox Ward. They had one child together and two grandchildren. Together, they were known for being the life of the party with a cocktail in hand and tearing up the dance floor. In 1999, John and Sara relocated to Brandon, Mississippi to be close to their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.
He served as president of the National Guard Association of Tennessee for a two-year term (1974 - 1976) and served as the Tennessee Delegate on several committees at the National Guard Association of the United States Annual Conference. He was a member of the Caledonia Lodge No. 96, F&AM, Royal Arch Masons, Paris Council No. 92, and Al Chymia Shrine Temple.
In his spare time, you could find him cheering on the Tennessee Vols, spending time with his family, and fishing with his grandchildren; oftentimes catching a fish as soon as his pole hit the water.
He is survived by his son, Gregory (Kathy) Ward, grandchildren, Douglas (Alyson) and John (Hillary) Ward, and sister, Donna Ward.
Visitation with the family is 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, 2019 followed by the funeral service at 3 p.m. at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 16835 Highland Drive, McKenzie, Tenn. Interment will follow with full military honors at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in McKenzie.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hospice Ministries, Inc. in Ridgeland, Mississippi (https://hospiceministries.org/give-to-hospice-ministries/).