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Marilyn Lee Ward, 97, practiced organic gardening long before it became fashionable

Marilyn Lee Ward
Marilyn Lee Ward

VIRGINIA BEACH — Marilyn Lee Ward, 97, a member of Great Neck Baptist Church, died peacefully Monday, July 27, 2020, at home.

Her friends at Great Neck will remember her teaching children’s Sunday school, and later, rocking babies and changing diapers in the nursery. Her focus was always toward the future.

In many ways, Marilyn was the counter balance to her husband of 59 years, Tom Ward, a career naval aviator and lifetime sailor whose wife was most at peace working in her flower and vegetable gardens. She practiced organic gardening long before it became fashionable and landscaped with cuttings rooted from native plants. When rain or cold weather forced her inside, Marilyn liked to knit, crochet, do needlework, sew and bake. Her cookie jar was well stocked, in case one of her children or grandchildren dropped in.

Marilyn so loved being a mother to five, Tom of Washington, D.C, Bob of Virginia Beach, Sue Miller of Elizabeth City and Sally of Virginia Beach. In 1969, her son Jim was killed in action in Vietnam. When people would say they were sorry to hear she had lost her son, she would always answer back, “I haven’t lost him. I know right where my Jim is.” It was this grief that drove her deeper into God’s word and to a stronger commitment to Jesus Christ. If motherhood suited her, becoming a grandmother was an even better fit. She and her husband Tom would drop everything to answer the needs of any of her children or grandchildren. Their home provided a place of structure, consistency and traditional values. She is survived by six grandchildren, Jim Miller of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Mary Muntz of Greensburg, Kansas, Dave Ward of Warrington, Pennsylvania, Sarah Ward of Virginia Beach, Margaret Madrone of El Prado, New Mexico, and Duncan Ward of Hyattsville. She had 11 great-grandchildren.

Marilyn began losing her memory during her mid 1980s, and her life became lighter as the past fogged in her mind. She forgot to miss the loved ones she had lost, forgot to be self-conscious or worry about how others perceived her, becoming childlike in many ways. Each day offered new perspectives and adventures, even as she re-visited once familiar places and ideas. Marilyn forgot she had arthritis. She forgot she was old. She forgot she had heart failure. For the first time in her life she began to truly relax, rest and play.

As a U.S. Navy wife, Marilyn had moved some 23 times. But thanks to the help she received from her family, as well as from her gardening friend, Trish Hann, and the Westminster Canterbury Hospice at Home team, she was able to live out the last 50 years of her life in her home.

Marilyn was buried Wednesday, July 29, in Princess Ann Memorial Park, Virginia Beach.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations may be made to the Nature Conservancy, the Gary Sinise Foundation or Operation Blessing.

Share online condolences with the family at Altmeyer Funeral Homes & Crematory.

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