OBITUARY: John “Jay” William Ward

“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid …” John 14:1

John “Jay” William Ward, age 90, of Fort Davis, Texas, passed away on Sunday, April 2, 2023 in Alpine, Texas. John was born on May 21, 1932, to John Irby and Cora Ellie (Cole) Ward in Gainesville, Texas. He was the fifth child –– the first son –– of eight children. Jay moved with his parents and siblings to Denver City in 1946 where he attended school and earned his high school diploma — Class of 1952 — from Denver City High School via correspondence after being drafted into the U.S. Army for service during the Korean Conflict.

On June 27, 1953, while serving in the U.S. Army, Jay was married to his high school sweetheart, Anna Beth Anderson, also of Denver City, Yoakum County. Following his military service, Jay and Anna Beth opted to return to West Texas to attend Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas; He was the first in his family line to attend college, a dream not easily fulfilled in the 1950s! Jay played football for the Lobos and baseball for the ‘06 Cowboys. He earned a degree in physical education in 1959 with hopes of becoming a teacher and coach. As well, he continued his studies in industrial technology and earned a master’s degree by 1961.

Jay and Anna Beth moved to Fort Davis and embarked on what would become a 60+ year venture for him. They started their teaching careers with Fort Davis ISD and their family of four flourished: Valynda Zoe (‘58), Shawn Michelle (‘60), Tanya Monique (‘62), and Revis Levette (‘64). Jay served as the beloved “shop” teacher — a role which he relished — as well as a history and math teacher, a coach, and a school administrator. In the early 1970s, Jay and Anna Beth helped to charter and open a residential treatment facility/boarding school at Prude Ranch for students with exceptional emotional and social needs. Jay was named principal and guided the school through relocation to the Blue Mountain facility and then retired a decade later as it made its final move/name change: High Frontier. To accomplish these lofty goals, Jay was required to earn yet an additional master’s degree in special education, and he did so through Texas Tech University with Anna Beth as his classmate and companion … always!

With 20+ years of service in the education field, Jay decided to launch his own business, putting his industrial technology degree to great use: Wayside Enterprises was birthed, and Jay embarked on a venture that lasted well into his seventies! Quite frankly, he continued to tinker and create in his woodshop right up to his 90th birthday and then some! It was his passion, as was his family! His passion, as well, was studying the Word — the Scriptures — and he did so at the First Baptist Church of Fort Davis before helping to charter a nondenominational congregation at Church in the Mountains. Again, with Anna Beth at his side. In his final years, Jay loved gathering for fellowship with community members of all faiths at the Stone Village Grocery Store to discuss life and love. He was a giant in living life well, modeling for others how to do it while explaining the whys for doing it. He was truly a teacher at heart!

Funeral services were held on Friday, April 7, at 11 a.m. at the Fort Davis High School Auditorium, with a brief graveside service immediately following at Hillcrest Cemetery in Fort Davis (military honors conducted by Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas). Judge Greg Henington, Jay’s eldest son-in-law, presided as the master of ceremonies, while Jay’s four daughters conducted the services along with their spouses: Greg Henington (Valynda of Alpine, Texas) Richard Nolen (Tanya of Artesia, New Mexico) and Lea Daggett (Revis of Fort Stockton, Texas). Dakota Zimmerman, Shawn’s son, served as her significant other for services in light of “Zimmer’s” very recent illness and death.

Pallbearers were Joshua Cannon, Zeke Cannon, Ronnie Young, Reese Zimmerman, Casey Nolen, Mason Daggett, and Cole Daggett. Honorary Pallbearers were Asher Cannon, Dakota Zimmerman, and Jared Massingill.

The family requests memorial contributions be made to the Jeff Davis County Food Pantry in Fort Davis (432.426.3886).

Death and Life: Jay is preceded in death by his beloved Anna Beth (2007) as well as by his parents and four of his siblings: Irma, Charlotte, Francis and Charles. Also preceding his death is his grandson, Burke Jay Matinez (1983), while immediately followed in death by Carl Maurice “Zimmer” Zimmerman, his son-in-law and caretaker of more than a decade. Jay is survived by his four daughters and their husbands, nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren with two additional on the way, as well as one great-great-grandchild arriving in November! Additionally, Jay is survived by three siblings: Ruth (94 of Gainesville, Texas), Ann (86 of Lubbock, Texas), and Beth (78 of Payette, Idaho).

Online condolences may be left at:

Services have been entrusted to Alpine Memorial Funeral Home in Alpine, Texas.