Larry E. Ward Profile Photo

Larry E. Ward

September 14, 1946 — February 28, 2024

Columbia Falls, Montana

Larry, age 77, a husband, father, grandfather, brother, cousin, and friend to many, passed

away Wednesday, February 28th, 2024, in Kalispell Montana, with family by his side. He

follows his grandparents, parents, siblings, and his grandson Thorin Besaw, as well as some

extended family members, to the Beyond.

Larry was born September 14th, 1946 to Roy and Opal (Benbow) Ward, at home in

Garfield, Arkansas. He joined three older siblings, Ray, Shirley (Cane) and Glenn. Later, Larry

became an older brother to Nancy (Lange) and John.

When Larry was five years old, the family moved to Conway Springs, Kansas. He grew

up there, walking home for lunch everyday, and enjoying time with his large extended family. In

his youth, he played and coached baseball, and enjoyed acting in class plays. He was a hard

worker, mowing lawns, and serving as a lifeguard. He loved to tell the story of how he and his

brother, Glenn, saved up enough money from their paper route and bought a car. Every summer

he looked forward to working on DeWayne Gerlach’s farm.He graduated from Conway Springs

High School in 1964.

In 1966, Larry joined the Kansas National Guard. He took a bus and then a train to Fort

Benning, Georgia for basic training. His unit was activated for riot control in 1968, and he was

stationed at Fort Carson Colorado.

He went back to Wichita, Kansas on a weekend pass, and it was there that he and Janie

Jensen picked each other up in a beer joint. Janie was from California, and was traveling across

the country with her friend Bev in a lavender pickup truck. The night they met, Larry famously

said to his friend Ed, “I’ll take the short one.” Larry asked Janie to marry him that very same

night. They were married four months later, on December 3rd, 1968, in Colorado Springs,

Colorado. A month before their wedding, Larry received his orders to go to Vietnam.

He arrived in Vietnam as a Sergeant E5, and was a squad leader, doing his best to keep

his guys safe. In mid June of 1969, he stepped on a landmine, and was taken to Letterman

Hospital in San Francisco, California, with two broken legs and shrapnel wounds to his hip, arm

and stomach. Janie was able to visit him daily as he recovered from his injuries. He received a

Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service.

Larry and Janie settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. While working, he attended

Alameda Jr. College, then Cal State Hayward, graduating in 1974 with a major in history and a

minor in math. While he was in college they welcomed their first son, Andrew John, who was

born in February of 1972.

Larry enrolled at the University of Montana, Missoula to complete his education degree.

This brought him to Montana, a place he called home for the rest of his life. He got a teaching

job in Thompson Falls, and their little family moved there in the summer of 1976, embracing a

daughter, Amy Elizabeth, shortly after. Their second son, Matthew Jensen, was welcomed in

January of 1979.

Larry taught 2nd grade and 6th grade, and enjoyed it thoroughly. However, due to poor

teacher wages, he embarked on a long bookkeeping career, working at various places in

Thompson Falls. He returned to teaching at Spring Creek Lodge Academy, where he later

became the academic coordinator.

Larry was very active in the community of Thompson Falls. He was an EMT. He coached

little guy wrestling, baseball and softball. He was also an active member of Lions Club and Odd

Fellows. He was on the city council and served as mayor for 6 years. He enjoyed several years

with kids and grandkids, making memories, especially in the form of chocolate peanut butter pie.

After 38 years in Thompson Falls, Larry and Janie moved to Columbia Falls to be closer

to family. He was able to enjoy retirement; spending time with family, traveling with Janie,

attending his granddaughter Opal’s events, or just taking drives and listening to music.

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Janie, sons Andrew and Matthew, daughter Amy

(Besaw) and son-in-law Kenn Besaw, as well as some extended family members. He leaves

behind grandchildren Rachel, Jordan, Dillin, Ameerah, Tesla, Brighton, Opal, Michael, Jonathan,

Sabrina, Raeleigh, and Braxton, as well as great grandchildren Tucker and Quinn. He was so

loved.

A service will be held in Thompson Falls later this spring. The family wishes to thank the

staff at Immanuel Living, the staff of Logan Health Medical Center, and family friend Lauren

Dillard. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory is assisting the family. If you wish to make a

donation in Larry’s memory, please send it to the Montana Hope Project.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Larry E. Ward, please visit our flower store.

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