By Darren Lum
Mix in belief, commitment, pride and a heaping of love and you have a recipe for what makes up Art Ward. He may have died on Dec. 28 at the Columbia Forest long-term care facility in Waterloo according to his death notice, but his legacy of strength and passion for Haliburton and its people will live on forever.
Ward is survived by his wife, Joan, sister Nora Oldfield, daughters Kimberley and Lisa, son Christopher and 10 grandchildren. He was 84.
His son wrote in an email message that his father loved Haliburton and its people “with everything he had.”
And he continued, “The one thing he would have dearly wanted was for people to reflect on the adage ‘Service Above Self’ if only for the purpose of helping to inspire others along the same path.”
The Rotary Club’s motto is “Service Above Self.”
To have seen him, you would not have forgotten him.
He was a tall man with an imposing physique, often towering over his contemporaries, which was matched by a larger-than-life personality and a complementary booming voice when it came to singing. For all that size, he was a friendly man.
Fellow Rotarian Andrew Hodgson knew Art for close to 50 years being a friend of the family. He said Art was a serious and dedicated Rotarian.
“He was larger than life. He was a character, huge personality. He brought joy and excitement in every room,” he said. “But I think in Haliburton he helped us. He’s an entrepreneur and he created a huge resort, Wigamog Inn. He was part of the original Pinestone. He went on to own Country Rose and they had an antique store. But he was an entrepreneur and a business person and a leader in our community.”
Hodgson was a child when he first met Art, having shared a regular taxi cab ride with daughter Kim to attend kindergarten held in the basement of the Baptist Church in Haliburton.
Hodgson said losing Art is a sad loss, but he left a legacy.
“We are fortunate that he decided to invest in our community. He brought so much to it. He took the lodging industry and put it on a different level. And he also helped to bring the Pinestone, which is a whole different level for us. So, I think we’re just fortunate as a community to have lived here, raise his family here. Invest in the area, enjoy us. To be part of our community and he created so much work and wealth and employment and it’s a real loss to our community.”
That loss is felt because of how much the area gained from his efforts with his membership and leadership in local organizations and causes.
Ward earned recognition for his efforts and was recognized as Rotarian of the Year, Innkeeper of the Year and the Highlander of the Year. He served as a president of several local organizations, including the Rotary Club of Haliburton, the Lake Kashagawigamog Tourist Association and the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce. His other accolades included earning the Rotary honour, the Paul Harris Fellow twice, the Rotary Lifetime Achievement Award and the Canada 150 Volunteer Award. He was a regular on the grill with the beef on a bun stand offered at the Rotary Carnival held in Head Lake Park in the summer. Even if no one else was available to help he was ready to do it all, if need be.
Before he called Haliburton home Arnprior was it.
Arthur Allen Ward was born in Arnprior on April 13, 1937.
He went to elementary and graduated from high school there where his father was principal.
The hotel administration graduate of Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto played one season for the Toronto Argonauts. He met Joan Douglas at Ryerson. They married in 1960. The two came to Haliburton in 1967 and put roots down and bought the Wigamog Inn, which they owned and operated for 27 years. They raised their family here, which included Kim, Lisa and Christopher.
Son, Christopher wrote in an email, describing his father.
“He was a quiet leader who encouraged, if not demanded, critical, independent thinking at a young age. There was never a shred of doubt that dad was always there for us. Whenever we fell down – he was there to pick us up. When we were sick – he was the one who took us under his wing. When we needed a ride – he was it. Yet, despite this soft and agreeable demeanor, he and Joan also taught and fostered a fierce sense of independence within each of us. He instilled a strong work ethic and an even stronger sense of moral obligation to those people and causes that one holds dear. He was assertive when he had to be and laughably loquacious when not,” he wrote.
His father’s promise, he added, was something anyone could trust.
“I think a lot of dad’s strength came from his knowledge that he was true to his word – to his causes – to himself. He lived life with an authenticity and confidence that is perhaps a little harder to find these days. It did seem to have a positive effect judging by the notes coming in from various sources over the past week,” he wrote.
Daughter Kim remembers how she and her siblings were employed at the Wigamog.
In an email, she wrote her brother Chris led snowmobile tours through the “bush,” while she waitressed in a uniform and her sister Lisa checked in guests from a desk she could barely see over. She remembers during one summer her father spent a month constructing a “three tier 1976 Olympic-themed float to honour Greek God Zeus” for the Rotary Carnival Parade, as an example of his competitive spirit.
Ward was a well-known Progressive Conservative supporter. He wasn’t shy about that support.
There was a 10-year period when the Wigamog hosted an annual tennis tournament, which included the who’s-who belonging to what Kim wrote were in the “big Blue Machine” of the Progressive Conservative Party. There are photos of Art with the likes of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Ontario Premier Bill Davis.
Fellow Rotarian and another friend Don Popple said Art was a person that could breathe life into any room he was in.
“The odd time you can have a boring meeting. Well, you just turn [the] sing-song over to Art and they would all be hooting and hollering, singing away there. And he loved to sing,” he said.
Art had a booming voice and his rendition of ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ is never forgotten by those that heard it.
Popple said his friend loved to see people smile.
“Yeah, he just liked seeing people having fun,” he said.
His constant promotion of this area not only came from love, but from pride of the area as well, Popple said.
“He wanted it to be successful. And of course there was a reason he wanted it to be successful because he had a tourism business, but on the other hand it was bigger than that. You know what I mean? He was like everybody else in the tourism industry. Sometimes he had a tough year, but he never gave up,” he said.
In recognition of Art’s commitment to tourism, the Rotary Club of Haliburton has started the Art Ward memorial scholarship for graduates of the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
Formally titled, A Hospitality Tourism Scholarship – Art Ward Memorial presented by the Rotary Club of Haliburton. It will be worth $250 and be available for 2021-2021 graduates. Anyone interested in contributing to this scholarship can send cheques to the Rotary Club of Haliburton, P.O. Box 832, Haliburton, Ontario, K0M 1S0. Indicate on the cheque that the donation go to the Art Ward scholarship.
From the death notice that appeared in the Haliburton Echo’s Jan. 4 issue, which was written by Christopher, it reads, “His singing will be missed but the echoes will last forever. Thank you for everything Dad, we love and miss you dearly.”