If Harry Ward spoke two words a night as a Newsday pressman, that was a lot. He was the silent type, until he spoke the language of love.
“I wish I’d met you a long time ago,” he’d often tell his wife, Rosemary Ward. “I could have done anything.”
For her, he passed a pharmacy course, learned to cook, left dating overtures on her home phone and more — a slow and steady love story that was cut short when lung cancer took his life on April 20. Ward, 55, of Baiting Hollow, had never smoked; he died at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown.
“I cannot complain,” his widow said. “He was the best man I could have ever met.”
Initially, she paid him little attention when they met about 13 years ago at a Port Jefferson nursing facility, where she was a nurse’s aide and his father was a resident.
At that time, the younger Ward was in his 40s, single and a loner with a passion for golf, a game his father started teaching him when he was a child, the widow said. The two took golfing trips across the country and abroad, hitting balls at some of the most famous courses, including St. Andrews Links in Scotland, she said.
His adult life consisted of golfing by himself almost daily, working nights at Newsday, where he was hired in 1978, and taking golf trips, during which he freely gave out tips, said those who knew him. He was so good that fellow golfers wondered why he didn’t turn professional, his wife said, but Harry Ward rarely told anyone he was too shy in front of crowds.
“He didn’t have a friend,” Rosemary Ward said. “His friend was golf.”
In his frequent visits to see his father, Newsday retiree Harold “Bud” Ward, the younger man sat quietly and turned away when anyone came into the room, his widow said.
He rarely initiated conversations, but it wasn’t long before his father and his father’s buddies noticed Harry Ward often asking her for things his father might need, she said. When Harry’s only sibling, Linda Ventimiglia, perished in a car crash, the tragedy helped changed the course of Bud Ward’s joking promise of finding Rosemary a husband to a more serious plea for her to date his son, she recalled.
Soon after, the pressman and the nurse had a slightly flirty exchange over why he didn’t talk more than business with her. He laughed. “I see his teeth for the first time,” Ward said.
His patient phone overtures to go out won her over.
But before they dated, Bud Ward died in December 2003. Harry called to talk — for two hours, Ward said.
From then on, teasing about his reticence spiced their yearslong courtship.
Then in 2007, he popped the question, going down on his knees in front of everyone at her friend’s house after Thanksgiving Day dinner, a night when he was almost loquacious, Ward recalled.
“He had his father’s ring and said, ‘If my father were alive, I’d propose to you in front of my father,’ ” Ward recounted. “He put it right there on the table and said ‘This is my father. He’s watching me proposing to you.’ ”
The couple married the next year and their son Joshua was born.
Like his father had taught him, Harry Ward began teaching golf to his son, Joshua, when he was 2 years old and was about to sign him up for golfing classes when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
The disease forced him to take leave from his Newsday job more than a year ago, but he continued as a part-time pharmacy technician at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Ward is survived by his wife and son, Joshua, 7.
Ward’s body was donated to science. He is expected to be cremated next year, followed by a private memorial.