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Preserve bridge dedicated to the Wards

February 7, 2018
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

More than 50 family members and friends gathered at St. Jude's Nature Trail Preserve to dedicate a memorial bridge to Dennis and Ruth Ward. The Wards were long-time St. James City residents.

"Ruth Ward passed away in 2012 and Dennis Ward passed away in 2014," Calusa Land Trust president John Kendall said. "The Wards were married for 57 years and had long-time passion and commitment to Pine Island. Both Ruth and Dennis were very involved in the community for many years."

Dennis and Ruth Ward met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they were both college students. The two married on June 11, 1955, in Brighton, Michigan. While they were raising their five children, Ruth was active in the PTA, Women's Club and was a Brownie leader and Dennis worked as a chemical engineer.

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The plaque memorializing Dennis and Ruth Ward on a bridge in St. Jude's Nature Trail Preserve.


The Wards moved to Pine island in 1989 and both Ruth and Dennis became involved with the St. James City Civic Association where they played bridge several times a week. Ruth also donated time to the Pine Island Library and Friendly Islanders Sending Help (F.I.S.H.)

Ruth passed away on Dec. 28, 2012.

Dennis' SJCCA activities included serving on the board as treasurer and as president of the association, overseeing expansion projects, and often providing facility maintenance. He also served on the Greater Pine Island Water Association, and was active with the local Habitat for Humanity as part of his service to United Way.

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He passed away on Aug. 10, 2014.

"The house in St. James City was built by my grandfather," Carol Ward said. "Then when my grandparents were gone, dad renovated the house. My mother and father loved the game of bridge so much that they renovated the house so it was large enough to hold three bridge tables."

Kendall met the Ward children at the preserve about a year ago. The Ward family wanted to do something in their parents honor.

"We were talking about the preserve with the Ward family," Kendall said. "I mentioned the possibility of a bench along the trail and Carol mentioned that their parents loved playing the game of bridge. That's how we arrived at the idea of building a bridge named after Ruth and Dennis Ward."

Each of the Wards' five children donated the funds to build the bridge. At the base of the bridge is a 600-pound granite rock with a plaque, which reads: "This bridge was built in honor of Dennis and Ruth Ward who enjoyed fishing and the game of bridge and were dedicated to preserving the way of life on beloved Pine Island."

"It's really nice that so many people came today I want to thank everyone for coming," Bruce Ward said of the recent bridge dedication. "My grandfather was the fire chief in Lehigh Acres and was the one that found Pine Island and as a family we would come here on vacations from Michigan. Our parents loved the sunshine, the fishing, the Pine Island Eagle and the warmth of the people of Pine Island. We're very proud of who our parents were they touched a lot of people."

St. Jude's Nature Trail Preserve is one of the many preserves protected by the Calusa Land Trust. The purpose of the CLT is to protect the natural diversity and beauty of the Pine Island region by acquiring, managing and preserving, in perpetuity, environmentally sensitive or historically important land and to foster appreciation for and understanding of the environment and our past.



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