December 17, 2013

Our Neighbors: A lifetime spent helping others

By Sue Minton
Lifestyles Editor

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Helpful, caring, giving, generous, compassionate. The list of adjectives to describe Sue Boggs Ward could go on and on because her life has been filled with helping others.

The Laurel County native was born in September 1948 at the ‘old’ Marymount Hospital by ‘old’ Doc Wathen. She was one of four children born to Troy and Mary Jane Boggs.

“I have a sister and two brothers,” she said. “Rose Mary is a retired teacher with the Laurel County School System. David is the CEO of OWL Corporation in Lexington, a non-profit that helps handicapped and work-challenged adults get back into the workforce. And brother, James, lives in West Virginia.

Her roots run deep in Laurel County with both of her parents being Laurel County natives and involved in politics.

“My mom was a Larkey. And both families are political — Grandpa Boyd Boggs was County Judge and one time in 1961, Mom’s dad, P.T. Larkey, ran against him,” she said.

“My dad is a pastor. He has pastored churches in Somerset, the Louisville area, Raceland, Hazard and helped establish Faith Assembly in London. At age 85, Dad is still pastoring at Cornerstone Assembly here in London.”

Ward’s dad was called into the ministry when she was a preschooler, so she attended almost as many schools as grades.

“I was always the ‘new’ girl. But I did attend London Elementary School in the first grade, Sublimity Elementary in the eighth grade, and London High School as a freshman and sophomore,” she said.  “I graduated from Raceland High School, Greenup County, in 1966. I feel like I am part of both London and Raceland high schools and have lots of life-long friends from both. I attend both class reunions when I can. I also attended Sue Bennett College.”

Growing up in a strong Christian family, Ward and her siblings were taught to give to others. These principles have influenced her occupations and the way she lives today.

Throughout most of her adult life she has been blessed to work in the ‘helping’ field which is near and dear to her heart.

Before working as a membership specialist for Girl Scouts — Kentucky’s Wilderness Road Council — she was a classroom assistant for handicapped children in the Laurel County School System. And worked 13 years traveling in 23 counties in southeastern Kentucky as a representative and fundraiser for the American Heart Association.

 “And, a fun job was welcoming newcomers to Laurel County as a ‘Welcome Wagon’ hostess,” she said.

During her 13 years with the Girl Scouts she changed territories several time. Traveling from Casey to Estill to Harlan and Bell counties.

“I spent wonderful years recruiting, training new leaders, setting up events, helping at camps, school programs and of course, loaded cookies and delivered them, and helped with troop meetings.”

“I have met so many wonderful people all over southeastern Kentucky who are passionate about volunteering and making a difference in their communities,” she said.

“I retired in September on my 65th birthday. What I loved most about working with the Girl Scouts was how sometimes very shy women would agree to be a Leader and before you knew it, they were showing such strong leadership,  going back to school, or becoming active in the PTO or their church.”

Ward recalls a young woman who had moved to London to get away from an abusive relationship and felt her daughter would benefit from Girl Scouts.

“When this young woman talked with me, she was bruised and struggling just to survive. She decided to step in as a Scout Leader when the other leader quit. In a few years, this young woman had gone back to college, got a good job, and was a trainer for Girl Scouts.”

What stands out most in Ward’s mind about the Girl Scouts are the camps at J.M. Feltner 4-H Camp.

‘Everytime I was at a campfire and listened to the girls singing softly and then ending with the ‘friendship circle’ or laughing when they were roasting marshmallows, I get a little teary eyed. I just can’t help it. I love the Daisy Scouts (kindergarten and first-graders). They come to their first meeting so excited. I always felt the moms enjoyed the Teddy Bear Tea parties and outings as much as their daughters.”

Ward recalls one of the scouts from North Laurel High helping build a puppet stage and book nook for the children at the homeless shelter. “It is still there and the children use it today.”

Ward was a Brownie Girl Scout for one year while her Dad pastored in Louisville and remembers the Leader teaching them to cook ‘hobo stew.’

“Her daughter had polio and all of us Scouts learned so much from that little girl,” she said.

With her giving and caring attitude, it was fitting for Ward to join one of Laurel County’s most generous clubs.

“I have been a member of the Laurel County Kiwanis Club since 1987,” she said. “Kiwanis International made a historical vote at the convention to accept women into the ‘all male club.’ My dad was a charter member and he and the late Charlie Proffitt kept after me to join. Dad said they only had one board member who was against women coming into the club. So, the next time he was absent, the club ‘pushed through the vote’ to let women in. Soon after I joined, I talked by best friend, the late Connie Richmond, into joining. Our membership has had as many women as men since 1987. It didn’t take the men long to find out who the best workers are.”

Everyone needs their Calcutta! And the Kiwanis Club was Ward’s.

“One time someone asked Mother Teresa ‘How they could make a difference like she does; what could they do? She replied, ‘Just get your own Calcutta.’ There are hundreds of worthy causes right here in Laurel County. We can’t do them all, but we can ‘get our own Calcutta.’ Originally, I joined Kiwanis just to spend time with my Dad. But, their mission of helping children and the friendships I have made has kept me in the club. I have served as president, board member and secretary. Just making a difference in our community, especially with needy children, is what I love.”

Besides being involved with Kiwanis, Ward is active in the nursing home ministry at her church, Souls’ Harbor, visiting both Laurel Heights in London and Heritage House in Corbin.

“A few weeks ago, a little resident who used to be the pianist for her church, and who had dementia, felt inspired to play “Silent Night.” She slowly moved to the piano and as she managed to play a few notes, her face beamed. Just this week, a lady who had suffered a stroke wanted us to help her clap her hands while she sang. She used to be president of our Kiwanis Club and was the late Dr. Hayes’ secretary at Sue Bennett. Something touching like this happens every week.”

Since retiring in September, Ward and husband, Tom, hope to do more traveling.

“Tom retires the end of December and we have an RV sitting in our driveway that’s bigger than the house. We’re going to travel some —  with two Dachshunds and a Pug in tow. I already have a stack of ‘wanna read’ books waiting.”

“I’ve been married to Tom Ward for 27 years. He moved to London from Ohio to work at Laurel Grocery. He had just gotten a divorce and had custody of his two small sons. About the same time, I moved back to London with my two small children so my family could help with babysitting because I had just divorced. Tom started attending my Dad’s church and with a little match-making help from my brother, James … well the rest is history. When we got married, our four children were just entering their teen years and I could write a book on that one!”

The four children have blessed the Wards with six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Jason, wife, Lenny, and sons, Ryan and Hunter, live in Henderson, Ky. Matt, his wife, Charlene, and daughter, Hailey, reside in North Carolina. Melissa and her family, Anna, Stephen and Seth, live in Columbus, Ga. And son, Jay, who is a chef, resides in London.

“Anna made me a great-grandma 18 months ago with Brianna. My car automatically knows how to get to Georgia. We had five generation pictures made with her and she is a joy.”

Family and children are Ward’s favorite things about the holidays.

“Our children coming home, taking the 40 children from four Laurel County schools shopping at Kmart, and helping with the Christmas Store at Souls’ Harbor Church, where more than 400 children will receive presents. That’s what it’s all about, folks!”