Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Parade Marshall Selected for The 2013 Great Darke County Fair

Lester E Ward Jr
Born September 17, 1922, Lester E. Ward Jr. was raised on a farm in Indiana. He began working in a factory near Richmond, IN after graduating from high school, and then enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps when WWII broke out. He was on board a United States Air fighter; a B-17, when it was shot down across enemy lines.

He became a WWII Prisoner of War and went through the "Long March" of the concentration camps in Germany. As WWII came to an end, thankfully, he was released back into the hands of the United States. He began a lengthy three month recovery stay at a hospital.

When he was well enough, he was honorably discharged from the military and received The Purple Heart. He met a lady named Marlene Bowman at the Greenville skating rink. It was love at first sight. In 1949, she became Marlene Bowman-Ward, who is now his wife of sixty-four years, and they moved into their current home.

After their marriage, Lester started working with his in-laws, shelling and hauling grain for the government. Unfortunately, he was involved in an accident at a grain storage which mangled his left hand. The doctor who performed the surgery had to reconstruct the entire hand. After recovering from such a traumatic accident, Lester knew he needed to change his career path so he began running a dry feed lot cattle operation.

He processed as many as 1,000 head per year. Lester began exhibiting draft horses at The Great Darke County Fair in 1939. That same year, Lester entered into an Open Class Judging Team competition. He and several other young people were randomly put together and then they were “interviewed” by judges to see who would be the winner of the 1939 contest sponsored by the Nestles Milk Product Company based in Greenville. Lester received first place and he still displays the trophy in his home, which Lester says is his favorite award.

In 1968, Lester and Marlene’s son Leslie, started exhibiting and during a 10-year period, received 3 Grand Champion and 2 Reserve Champions awards. In 1978 he was introduced to the show cattle world. He purchased his first show heifer at the Jackson Mill Auctions in West Virginia. This was no ordinary show heifer or just a commercial heifer; it was a Chianina (Chi) heifer.

His grandchildren Tyler and Tana began showing heifers and in addition to exhibiting at the Great Darke County Fair, also participated in State and National Shows. Also in 1978, Lester became a member of the Ohio Chi Association and has been a loyal member to this day. As his breeding of Chi cattle became more nationally known and they became more involved in agriculture, he and Marlene received several notable awards. One of the awards was distributed by the House of Representatives, Keith Faber, House District 77, Diana Fessler, House District 79,Jon Husted, Speaker of the House; also part of the Darke County Chamber of Commerce. This award was presented on behalf of the 126th General Assembly of Ohio.This award was for their committed service to agricultural.

In 1997, he received another award in Maryland for his dedication to the livestock industry. Lester and Marlene were awarded the Who's Who award in 2000 and he has also been "Herdsman of the Year" numerous times throughout his career. Lester and five of his friends wer ethe founders, and first board members, of the Darke County Cattlemen's Association.

He says he remembers this like it was yesterday. "We began holding our meetings at Deb Labig's home and she had pie", he said, ‘‘She made the best pie." During the 2011 Darke County Fair, Roy White presented him with an honorary member award on behalf of the Darke County Cattlemen's Association; the same association he helped to create.

Lester will be 91 in September.

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