Bill Ward, Director of Loudoun ENDependence (LEND), passed away on December 29, 2014. Loudoun County and the regional disability community have lost a great advocate, friend, and colleague.
Mr. Ward, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a body surfing accident three decades ago, became a tireless advocate for people with disabilities in Northern Virginia. In the mid-1990s he approached the Executive Director of the Arlington-based ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, Michael Cooper, about increasing services for people with disabilities in his home of Prince William County, Manassas. Mr. Ward began working part time for ECNV to serve more people in Prince William County, but he wanted to do more. Working tirelessly with a team of ECNV staff and Center for Independent Living (CIL) advocates from across Virginia, he helped secure funding to create an independent, free-standing CIL serving people with disabilities living in Prince William and Fauquier Counties. Mr. Ward worked closely with state legislators on the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee to secure funding. The new CIL, now the thriving Independence Empowerment Center (IEC), was established in Manassas in 1999 and Mr. Ward was hired as the first Executive Director. Having left IEC for health reasons in 2005, he was recruited by ECNV in 2008 to launch another satellite office in Loudoun, and was the Director there until his death.
“Bill was a can-do guy, a systems-change kind of guy. But he was never about receiving credit. He just wanted to ensure people with disabilities have access to the tools they needed to live independently and he made it happen,” said Mr. Cooper, who was Executive Director of ECNV from 1995 - 2006.
Mr. Ward also served on the Virginia State Rehabilitation Council, the Prince William County Disability Services Board, and the Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council. He was awarded the ECNV Independent Living Award in 2007 for his dedication to the independent living movement.
Bill Ward was an active member of his community. Using his chin to maneuver his electric wheelchair, he traveled all over the state of Virginia to attend meetings and advocate for people with disabilities. He advocated effectively for public transportation for people with disabilities and frequently used it himself.
“No longer having Bill’s energy, knowledge, and unwavering commitment to the independent living movement is a huge loss for ECNV and LEND,” said ECNV’s current Executive Director Brewster Thackeray. “His passion and dedication will continue to motivate and inspire our work going forward.”
“What I always admired about Bill was his determination,” said David Burds, Executive Director of ECNV from 2007 – 2012. “I could always count on him. I don’t use the term “inspiration” lightly, but he was an inspiration to me, and so many other people.”
Bill Ward is survived by his wife Beth, daughter Gretchen, mother Claudette, and by his six brothers and sisters and many nieces and nephews.
Contributions in Bill’s memory may be made, per his family’s suggestion, to: ECNV, 2300 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA, 22201; or at www.ecnv.org.