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Johnny L. Ward

December 16, 1954 - August 29, 2023

U.S. Veteran

There will be a gathering to honor Johnny’s life on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., at the Elks Lodge #1187 in Rapid City, SD.  Military honors will be held at a later date.



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THE MAN, THE  MARINE, THE HOLE IN ONE LEGEND, went to live with God on Tuesday, August 29th.   He passed peacefully at home surrounded by family and fur babies.
My guess he’s gotten that 10th hole in one and landed a 30’ walleye by now.

I’m writing this as a letter because a traditional obituary cannot describe this special man.

Johnny Lloyd Ward was born December 16th in Minneapolis, MN to Phyllis (Lessin) and Lloyd Ward.

We met when his childhood was a memory but oh the stories I’ve heard…Summers at Cedar Lake with Gramma and Grampa Lessin.  Maybe that was where his love for fishing started?
Also, he “helped” the Wards on the farm near Pipestone. City kids thought chores were fun. Cousins loved when the kids came.
Every year they went on a summer vacation camping. The antics of these vacations are hilarious. Dear God, it’s no wonder Phyllis went grey at an early age!

He attended grades K-12 in Sioux Falls. JW said he rarely dated but according to Julie, girls called all the time. What a stud!
He was an assistant manager at McDonalds through out High School and very proud of the car he purchased. So much so he made people put their shoes in a bag before getting in! Lucky for me he got past that before we met.

The end of summer 1973 he reported to Marine Bootcamp where they “knocked you down to a pile of shit, then build you into a Marine”.
John Ward proudly served 4 years in the United States Marine Corp.
2 of those years spent as a security guard at The American Embassy in Rabat, capital of Morocco. This elite position and those times formed the man I married. Marines are trained to Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. His ability to make critical decisions at a moments notice is where his get er done attitude came from. The few, the proud, the USMC. Semper Fidelis, the motto of every Marine ‘Always Faithful’

After discharge he went to work with his brother in the oil fields of Wyoming. Now those are some wild stories. What a bond those two had!
JW moved back to Sioux Falls living with his sister Jill. Jobs scarce he went to work at Raven Industries vowing to never be that broke again. (This is when I met him)
Long time friend Terry Larson introduced him to a “real job” digging ditches for Chuck’s Equipment, then Heavy Constructors. In those 40 years he moved through the ranks gaining the respect of many. He was a hard ass with strong work ethics. He would do most anything for “the boys”. With red dirt in his pockets he said, “I’m not sending my guys in where I wouldn’t go”.
John was very proud of the Excavating Specialists division and that he “made them a lot of money”. A real company man, his loyalty was rewarded.
Oh, I can’t forget his service on the 811 board, another source of pride and the awesome friends he made there.

These past 3 years 8 months of glioblastoma would have taken the average man down. The diagnosis came the week of his 65th birthday and the same day as his retirement party.
He met it head on “Maren, everyone dies”. He never was dying from cancer—Johnny lived WITH cancer. Yes, the frequent trips to Rochester sucked. Yes, the Optune cap sucked and yes, his loss of independence sucked the worst but he warriored on. The man, the Marine.

Early in our marriage he would go on hunting trips with the guys, sometimes filling the freezer in lean times. My dad told me, “stay with him, he’s a good provider” Guess Dad knew what he was talking about.

Alas, he gave up guns for golf clubs. His passion grew with every year and every hole in one. Each exciting but the Big One was the $10,000 tournament he won. Yes, he bought a new golf cart but he also gave a large portion to the VA hospital Fort Meade. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

With Mayo’s cooperation and the help of a group of great guys he was able to go on the annual Florida golf trip this year!  I’m thinking it was his Make A Wish come true. Thanks guys!
And Texas guys…You rock.

He touched many lives and was touched by many. He was a good husband and a great dad. Cody was his pride and joy even when forced to play Barbies.

He enjoyed spending time with our Bonus Grand Kids. A trip to
Sioux Falls meant time with Ty, Archer and Braydon. Watching them go from basement hockey to Minnesota recruit and most recently, their interest in golf. “Kid’s got a good swing”.

Johnny loved the Burke Littles as they grew from Hurricane Haley to a caring young lady. He had many special times with Jenson including egg hunting, rock painting and some intense conversations. “It’ a guy thing” Little Holland Grace held a special place in his heart dazzling him form the beginning. No matter how he felt he always found a smile when the doorbell rang for a visit from these Bonus Grands.

Surviving without Mr. Wonderful is me, Maren, his wife of 42 years.
His brother Scott and wife Linda of Piedmont SD. His sister Julie of Black Hawk SD. Many nieces and nephews including Emily Clarke, Dustin Hansen, Ryan Logan and their families. Fur babies Princess Lucy and Cassie aka Tank.  Also surviving him is estranged daughter Cody and family.

Waiting for him at Heaven’s Gate…His loving mother Phyllis, father Lloyd and sister Jill.  I can’t forget his “best dog”, Cosmo.

Until we join you Johnny, rest up because one day we will be together in celebration.

Love you and miss you deeply.   WW

Memorial monies will go to Rockside Ranch and Fort Meade Veteran’s Hospital per Johnny’s request.

Please join us at the Elks Lodge #1187 to honor Johnny on September 20, 2023, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Military honors will be held at a later date.


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