When those who were close to Douglas Ward think of what he meant to them, his dynamic personality, World War II service, fun-loving and social nature immediately come to mind.
“I know I will never meet another person like him,” said David Hogan, 55, of La Crosse. “He’s witty, he’s fun, he has so much life experience. I never knew that one of my best friends would be 94 years old.”
Ward died on Friday at his home — widely known as the Log Cabin Airport — in rural Mondovi.
The Log Cabin Airport connected Ward to a plethora of aviators and airplane admirers alike — for the last 31 years, the veteran hosted fly-ins over Labor Day weekend on his property. That’s how Hogan first met Ward, he said, although their friendship truly began when Ward gave Hogan a ride in a yellow airplane in exchange for some poles he needed to complete a construction project.
“He was quite a craftsman,” Hogan said, gesturing around the tall interior of the log cabin Ward built on the airport property. During his lifetime, Ward also built a saloon, barber shop and various other living spaces on the property.
Hogan said some of his fondest memories with Ward took place on the property, as well as the annual trek to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
“Doug will probably be remembered by everyone he ever met,” Hogan added. “I’m probably just going to remember him as my best friend.”
When Judie Ohm thinks of Ward, her significant other for the past 18 years, she thinks of his kindness and strength.
“First of all, he was a handsome man,” Ohm said, smiling, of the first time she met Ward at a supper club in Eau Claire. “He had gentleness, kindness, a twinkle in his eye. Strength and an upbeat, fun-loving personality.”
During their years together, Ohm began to learn more and more about Ward’s experiences as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 in WWII, which he would only talk about when asked, she said. Throughout his service, he was credited with 37 missions in the European Theater. He was a member of the 8th Air Force and the 305th bomb group in England.
In his lifetime, he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, WWII Victory Medal, Air Medal with four oak leaves, a Carbine Sharpshooter award, and Pistol Sharpshooter awards in the European/African/Middle Eastern campaign as well as for the American Campaign.
Ohm ended up writing a book about Ward’s service titled “Turret Tails from a WWII Ball Turret Gunner Staff Sgt. Doug Ward.” The book contains the many stories Ward collected, photographs and excerpts from Ward’s letters to his mother and the diary he kept while in service.
Aside from his service history, Ward was known among friends for his high energy and fun-loving nature.
“Oh, I loved the guy,” said Steve Valk, 54, of Altoona. “He has so much energy, such a dynamic personality, full of life. Always in a good mood and making me smile.”
Valk got to know Ward after Valk bought his first airplane and decided to store it on Ward’s property. The families grew close and began taking camping vacations together and visiting on holidays.
“I have a lot of fond memories of a guy who lived a life we could all hope to live,” Valk said. “He wanted to live in every moment. He had a zest for life.”
A celebration of Ward’s life will be at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 11 at the Log Cabin Airport, S149 Segerstrom Road, Mondovi. There will be lunch following the service. (Editor’s note: The print version of this article originally stated only “Sunday.” It’s been corrected to reflect the service will be Sunday, Feb. 11).
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