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Atascadero community figure and veterans advocate Chuck Ward dies

Tribune - 3/4/2017

March 04--Chuck Ward, an Atascadero man known for his vibrant community spirit and avid support for fellow veterans, died Friday.

He was 82.

"He was just, you know, a powerful, dynamic, very good person who worked hard for veterans," said his sister Cynthia Whitney Ward, 75, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. "He's probably working hard for them wherever he is now."

Ward grew up outside of Boston and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied chemical engineering.

But one of Ward's truest passions that he carried with him even after retirement was his work with the U.S. Marine Corps. He was a first lieutenant, his sister said, and dedicated much of his later life to working for veterans.

For a while, Ward lived in San Francisco while he worked for an international trading company, his sister said. When he retired, he eventually relocated to Atascadero, a town that reaped the rewards from Ward's activism.

In early 2015, Ward helped to initiate the designation of Highway 101 as a National Purple Heart Trail, something that he and other local volunteers spent years lobbying the California Legislature to establish.

"Atascadero is very patriotic," Ward said at the time. "We have things here that will cause people to pull off the highway and spend some time in this city."

Ward was also instrumental in creating the Faces of Freedom Veteran's Memorial, which was constructed in Atascadero in 2006.

Most recently, Ward petitioned for a 6-foot likeness of the late Charles Paddock, the San Luis Obispo County park ranger who founded Atascadero'sCharles Paddock Zoo, to be erected at the zoo. It was another battle that he won: The statue not only honors Paddock, but also his son, Michael Paddock, a U.S. Marine who died fighting in the Vietnam War.

"I often think if you looked up the word 'tenacious' in a dictionary, you'd find a photo of Chuck Ward," Lon Allan wrote in a weekly column for the Tribune about Ward's determination to create the statue. "He approaches every endeavor with a can-do attitude and rarely takes no for the final answer."

A former Atascadero planning commissioner, Ward briefly entertained a stint in politics. He ran for Atascadero City Council in 2010 and 2014, though he did not win either race.

Ward's sister said a memorial would be held for her brother, probably within the next two weeks.

"He's very well-loved," she said.

Megan Henney: 805-781-7915, @megan_henney


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