John A. Ward, of Sag Harbor, died Thursday, 11 days after his 90th birthday. He is survived by two of 10 siblings, many children and grandchildren.
The list of his involvements, accomplishments, civic posts were many and often legendary. He was the mayor of Sag Harbor, a village trustee and the fire chief for the . He was recently named New York State Fireman of the year and, up until his death, held the position of fleet captain for the , where he has also been the commodore. He has owned a gas station, a restaurant, the bar that became the infamous Black Buoy Bar, he built the causeway connecting the Redwood section of Sag Harbor to Glover Street, financed and built the windmill on the and was responsible for the Veterans Memorial rock monument at Otter Pond. The next time you dine at which shares the on Bay Street, you can see the cannon he help acquire. He also was responsible for the Sag Harbor Yacht Club Independence Day fireworks displays.
Back in the day when there were 30 bars on Sag Harbor’s Main Street, Ward met John Steinbeck when he needed work on a boat motor and they became great drinking and fishing pals. In the novel, “Travels with Charley”, Ward is referred to as “The Mayor of the Village.” Steinbeck, Ward, Bob Barry and a small circle of friends were the creators of the original Whaling Festival, for which Steinbeck served as honorary chairman. According to Ward, Steinbeck’s motto regarding the festival was, “The bigger the snafu the better. We can make a big mistake, bigger next year.” This celebration lives on as .
Steinbeck thought the Old Whaler’s Festival would be enhanced through competitions recalling Sag Harbor’s early days with greased pole climbing, whale boat races, beauty contests, a parade with floats, a beard contest and canvas whale with an outboard motor, built by Ward and Steinbeck, that was the object of a harpooning contest. That same canvas whale is still part of the whaling boat races but, in consideration of it’s age, they no longer use real harpoons.
Ward was born on Bay Street on March 4, 1922. His departure marks the end of an era. He had a good life and will be remembered fondly by many. He will have a fireman’s funeral on Monday morning, March 19; the time is to be announced.
UPDATE: A funeral mass is planned Monday at 10:30 a.m. at in Sag Harbor, followed by burial at St. Andrews Cemetary on Brick Kiln Road.