MADISON — Gary Ward was a man who devoted decades of his life to his community.

Gary Ward enjoys a meal in this undated photo provided by his family. Ward, 86, a former longtime firefighter and fire chief in Anson, died Thursday after his vehicle backed into the Kennebec River in Anson. Photo courtesy of Tim Curtis

Ward, 86, woke up each morning and drove over to the Good & Plenty Diner in Anson, where he’d meet up with a group of friends “and talk about everything and fix all of the world’s problems over breakfast,” according to Ward’s nephew, Tim Curtis, who is also the Madison town manager.

Anson’s Fire Chief Stacey Beane said that he spent about 45 years working for the fire department, with around three of those years in the 1970s spent as the fire chief. Curtis added that his uncle also sold insurance for most of his life: he worked for Prudential Insurance and was a partner in Anson Insurance for many years, and during his later years he worked as a representative of the Senior Planning Center in Farmington.

Ward died Thursday after his SUV veered into the Kennebec River in Anson.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster reported Friday that the investigation is still ongoing as officials try to determine what led up to the crash. On Thursday, Chief Deputy Michael Mitchell said that Ward might have suffered a medical emergency that preceded the crash.

Ward was driving a 2008 Toyota Highlander on Thursday when he backed out of parking spaces in front of the Good & Plenty Diner at 53 Main St. and into a 2012 Nissan Frontier driven by Earl Rolfe, 79, of Madison, according to officials. Speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash and Rolfe was not injured.

“We don’t have any more information that (we) can release at this point,” Lancaster said. “What we do know is that (Ward) was really well-liked and respected in his community. It’s hard to find guys like that anymore.”

Gary Ward is seen in this undated photo provided by his family. Ward, 86, a former longtime firefighter and fire chief in Anson, died Thursday after his vehicle backed into the Kennebec River in Anson. Photo courtesy of Tim Curtis

A public service is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 28, at Madison Area Memorial High School at 486 Main St. The service begins at noon and Ward will be remembered with a final call by local firefighters. Friends and family may gather before the service, at 10 a.m., for fellowship.

Curtis said Ward’s true passions “were the firefighters, working with the department and spending time with his family.”

His regular presence at the Good & Plenty Diner in Anson was a hallmark of his community engagement.

“Every morning he went to breakfast there,” Curtis said. “It was one of the things he loved doing. He was very well-loved.”

Ward, born July 3, 1935, spent the early years of his life on a family farm in Jackson and was the oldest of four children. Survivors include his three sisters Deanna, Linda and Sally; three sons Michael, Ron and Billy; and grandchildren. Another son, David, died earlier.

Gary Ward enjoys a meal in this undated photo provided by his family. Ward, 86, a former longtime firefighter and fire chief in Anson, died Thursday after his vehicle backed into the Kennebec River in Anson. Photo courtesy of Tim Curtis

“His family moved around a bit during the Great Depression and eventually settled in Anson,” Curtis said. “He grew up in Anson and went to school in Madison. Back then everyone in Anson went to school in Madison.”

Deanna Curtis said in a statement that her brother worked in an area shoe shop, as a salesman for Central Maine Motors, before becoming a Prudential insurance agent, part-owner of Anson Insurance and an agent with the Senior Planning Center in Farmington.

About 12 years ago, Ward retired and moved to Madison where he spent the remainder of his life. Beane, said that though Ward retired, he was still a house man and still on the department’s call list.

“He never really retired,” Curtis said. “He continued to do work for people up until recently. I would say he slowed down considerably in the last few years.”

 

 

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