Elizabeth P. Ward, a longtime Meals on Wheels volunteer and social dancer, died of complications from dementia Friday at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville. The former Lutherville resident was 97.
Born Elizabeth Peddicord in Baltimore and raised on Fernhill Avenue, she was a 1929 Forest Park High School graduate. She worked as a secretary at Sun Life Insurance Co. until her 1940 marriage to George Milton Ward.
During World War II, while her husband was in the Navy, Mrs. Ward left her 18-month-old daughter in the care of her mother and mother-in-law and went to California to be with her husband as he returned from service in Scotland.
She worked as a maid for a Navy officer's wife in La Jolla, Calif., and received hard-to-find housing as part of her duties.
"Mother told the story on herself about her first day in California when she was supposed to catch a bus to La Jolla," said her son, George M. Ward Jr., a retired WMAR-TV news photographer. "She waited and waited and waited, and finally asked a man which bus to take. He told her three had passed already. She was waiting for the 'La Hoya' bus, not the La Jolla bus."
Mrs. Ward later returned to Baltimore to fetch her daughter and then traveled back to California to unite the young family.
"My parents were devoted to one another. It was a partnership from the time they married," said her daughter, Nancy Franklin of Huntsville, Texas.
They returned to Baltimore and lived in a Lochwood Road rowhouse. Mrs. Ward was a homemaker while Mr. Ward held several jobs, including bowling alley pinsetter, as he worked toward an accounting degree. He became chief of the accounting department at Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point Shipyard.
The couple joined the Sparrows Point Country Club and enjoyed dinner dances there, family members said.
"They loved dancing with each other," her son said. "The shipyard held fancy launching parties at the Belvedere's ballroom, where they danced. At their 50th wedding anniversary celebration - when she was 80 - my mother thought one of the songs the trio was playing was too slow. She told the leader, 'Pick up the pace. We want to dance.'"
The Wards volunteered with Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland from 1979 to 1992. "They were older than almost everyone they were delivering meals to," her son said.
Mrs. Ward remained in close contact with eight women whom she met at the old Liberty School No. 64 on Garrison Avenue who all went on to attend Forest Park High. The group referred to itself as "the sorority" and socialized frequently with husbands and children.
"She was from a large and close-knit family, and she was a leader," said Evelyn Sheats Coyle, a "sorority" member. "She liked everything done just right, perfect. She was a wonderful housekeeper. Above everything, she was a true-blue friend. If anyone had a problem, she was there with her husband, asking, 'What can we do?'"
She and her husband moved to Broadmead in 1992 and were contract and duplicate bridge players. Mrs. Ward was a longtime member of Garden Gate Garden Club of Northwood, which decorated the Cylburn Arboretum at Christmas. She also was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and First Families of Virginia.
"Mother loved to cook for a crowd - the more the better. When she was in her 70s, she was in Austria and fell and broke her arm. Two days after she got home, she cooked dinner for 10 with her arm in a cast," her son said.
Family members said she kept a green book wherein she recorded her menus and the guest list.
"She did not want to repeat the same menu to the same people," her daughter said.
Mrs. Ward was a member of Grace United Methodist Church and formerly belonged to Northwood Appold United Methodist Church.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
In addition to her son and daughter, Mrs. Ward is survived by a sister, Jackie Pease of Towson; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1999.