Remembering Gordon Ward
Beloved TV news icon Gordon Ward passed away at Kingston in Sylvania on Tuesday, February 22, 2022. He leaves behind his wife Connie, four children, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and countless friends and fans.
A Cleveland native, Ward studied journalism at Bowling Green State University from 1944 to 1948. The army veteran was hired to be a broadcaster for WTOL in 1958, and that year he moved into the Hillcrest in Toledo while he was building a home in Sylvania, Ohio off of Flanders Road. He moved into the Sylvania home in 1959, married Connie Harlan on live TV in 1962. Gordon Ward moved to WSPD in 1967, retiring from Channel 13 twenty years later.
In 2021 Gordon and Connie were still living in the same home on Flanders.
According to Sylvania News editor Amanda Kay, Gordon Ward was still "Quick as a whip!" in 2020 when he wrote the introduction to the local history book "Sautter's Special," which also featured a recipe and story of the couple's family history. Gordon and Connie generously shared their memories, recalling the good times of "Flanders Bog" and many other local happy moments over the years. Later on, when a new book was being created to shine a spotlight on the holidays in Sylvania over the years, the Wards gladly came on board again to share good words about Northwest Ohio's history.
"As an editor, these are two of the nicest people I have ever had the honor of working with," recalled Kay when the Christmas book was published in December 2021. "They are so generous with their time, so kind, and truly a joy to be around. They joke and laugh constantly. They are still on-the-go, at 96 and 88. They still live in the same house in Sylvania that Gordon bought when he first got the job at WTOL. They still shop at Sautter's every week."
An overwhelming outpouring of public sentiment for the Wards followed the publication of Christmas in Sylvania, inspiring a public Christmas card to be created and posted online. Thousands expressed their love for the Wards online in a matter of days, and it was all printed up and delivered to Gordon and Connie at their home in Sylvania the day before Christmas Eve 2021.
Gordon and Connie were surprised and moved to tears over the words of love they received from the Northwest Ohio community in the Christmas card, which was 16 pages in length.
Mr. Ward passed away two months later.
Today, the Internet is flooded with posts remembering Gordon Ward, from chance encounters to the reliable routine of his honest reporting. Running through the hundreds upon hundreds of shared memories is a common thread; a sense of truth, love of neighbor, and sincerity was perceived by all, by both those in the audience and those who shared personal moments with the man known as "Skip" Ward.
A Celebration of Life service for Gordon Ward will be held at Saturday April 9 at 2:00 p.m.at Monroe Street United Methodist Church, 3613 Monroe Street, Toledo, Ohio 43606, with arrangements by Ansberg-West Funeral Home. The Ward Family suggests that any tributes go to the Salvation Army or Monroe Street United Methodist Church.
The books Sautter's Special and Christmas in Sylvania are currently available from Sylvania History Buffs. Enjoy remembering our beloved Gordon Ward with an excerpt below, and step back in time to 1958 with a smattering of news clips from the year he came to town.
Sylvania, Ohio is a special place to be during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. This is one indisputable constant that has remained in full force from the early 1800s until the present day.
Gordon and Connie Ward have lived here since 1958, and they have many warm memories of Christmas in Sylvania.
“We went to every Christmas concert at Hillview, then Arbor Hills, and then Northview when the kids were growing up,” shared Gordon Ward, now 96 years old.
The Wards raised their four children in Sylvania, and the couple still lives in the same house that Gordon bought and moved into when he was hired to work at WTOL in 1958. When the two met, Connie was on Romper Room as “Miss Judy,” and Gordon was the TV news anchor. They made history in 1962 when their wedding took place on live television.
While their children were young, the Wards got up early every Christmas and drove to Grandma and Grandpa Ward’s home to open presents with cousins, aunts and uncles. Later on they began a special tradition for Christmas Eve.
“We always spent Christmas Eve at church,” said Connie, now 88 years old. “The last thing we did was to sing Silent Night, with everybody holding a candle.”
“The choir back in those days was huge,” recalled Gordon. “They encircled the entire sanctuary while they sang with candles in their hands. The lights were dimmed and then went out completely, and there was just candlelight. When they sang the “Amen” everybody just raised their candle, and that was the end of the service. We all walked out in silence.”
The Wards said that they were not able to enjoy their Christmas Eve tradition last year for the first time, because of the pandemic. They do not know if they will be able to do it this year, for Christmas 2021, but they still have other traditions to enjoy with their family and friends, which is something Connie advises others to do as well.
“Find a way to be with family. If it’s not blood-related, try to get with other people who you love, friends you love, and spend time with them,” advised Connie. “To me, there’ s nothing like sharing with another person. Listening, and also sharing. So find a way to develop family, in some way, that you can share the moment with.”
The Wards fondly recall many special times with friends and neighbors in Sylvania, especially Flanders Bog, a big event back in its heyday that even caught the attention of Better Homes and Gardens, and resulted in a national feature on the Sylvania neighborhood’s annual affair. But at Christmastime the town seems to sparkle a little more in all four corners of the city and township.
“We always drive around and spot the neighborhoods where the fancy lighting is,” said Gordon. “Downtown Sylvania has done a beautiful job with the lights on Main Street, that’s worth seeing.”
At their home, the Wards create their own festive display.
“We always decorated a live tree for Christmas, but it was outside, planted out front,” said Gordon. “My dad had grown it from a seedling, but it finally died. I bought another then to replace it, but I backed into it with the riding mower. It’s growing back, a little lopsided. We broke down and bought an artificial tree for inside the house.”
Gordon has his own advice to offer for having a joyful Christmas in Sylvania.
“Try not to get so busy that you’re working under tension,” said the TV news legend. “Try to stay loose, and enjoy it.”
(Book excerpt; Introduction of Christmas in Sylvania)
Gordon and Connie Ward enjoying their weekly trip to Sautter's Market in Sylvania in 2020.
In 1962, Gordon and Connie Ward made television history when they were married on the air.