Raymond “Ray” Keith Ward, 91, passed away peacefully on Saturday, September 30, 2023, just shy of his 92nd birthday. He passed comfortably with Hospice services at Brightview Baldwin Park Assisted Living Staunton.
Mr. Ward was born October 8, 1931, to the late Lewis Franklin and Irma Geraldine Ward. He grew up in Blairstown, NJ. He is survived by his daughter, Marion Anne Ward and his son, Warren Keith Ward along with his spouse, Ernesto Gregorio. In addition to his parents and his loving wife, Dorothy “Dottie” Anne Ward, he is preceded in death by a son, Peter Franklin Ward; a brother, Robert Lee Ward; and sisters, June Elizabeth Ward Cooper and Nancy Jane Ward Blumhagen.
Raymond graduated from Blairstown High School in Blairstown NJ, in 1950, and Rutgers University in 1954. He worked throughout childhood and high school on farms, raising animals, mowing lawns, delivering papers, hauling milk, and as a teenager lent his parents money for their down payment for their first house. Ray served in the US military then worked with Rutgers University and the State of NJ as an Agricultural Agent for 3 years. He then purchased his first farm in Southern NJ and built a cutting-edge Dairy operation using knowledge he gained both at university and in the field. He grew the herd and operation and over time purchased more land and two more farms. After two decades Ray was invited to develop and teach the industrial arts program for Salem County Schools. He gradually moved on from running the Dairy farm and taught until he “retired.”
Ray was very active in the First Baptist Church of Woodstown for over six decades. He served on: Board of Deacons, Board of Missions, Board of Trustees, was church Treasurer for many of his later years until he moved to Virginia, and was a founding member of N and M’s (“Newly Married, Nicely Married and Never Married”). Ray and Dottie taught Sunday School and taught in the Migrant Ministry program and Vacation Bible School. He went on and sometimes organized many mission trips. If there were a need, he’d be there to help fill it. All the while, Ray, was also very active in civic engagement: He started the first Ruritan club in NJ (Wistarburg Ruritan club), served on and was President of Alloway Township School Board, and with a Christian reformed drug addict, founded a Drug Rehabilitation Center on one of this Farms called “Faith Farm”. Retirement from teaching brought more volunteer work. For decades Ray built houses with Habitat for Humanity and served as a Hospice volunteer for many years. He and Dottie also were Hospital Chaplains/patient advocates for Salem County Hospital for over 20 years. They gave generously to the church and missions and many causes and have provided for ongoing giving through several foundations.
Ray was remarkably social and confident and interested in people and their stories as well as telling his own. He loved reading on many topics and often read aloud to share what he was learning. Though dearly missing his friends and church from Woodstown NJ, he quickly adapted to living in a community with plenty of activities at Brightview Baldwin Park, Staunton VA, where he moved with Dottie in November 2021. He enjoyed the companionship of residents and staff. Wherever he was, Ray Ward was at the center of things. He was highly regarded and well loved.