1923 - 2023
Long-time community member, Paul Ward, passed away peacefully on January 27th, in his beloved Paradise Valley. Born into a family of orchardists, ministers and abolitionists, he was among five generations of Wards who have called Morgan Hill their home.
Paul’s great grandfather, James Parmalee “J.P.” Ward, purchased 75 acres of land on the west side of Morgan Hill from the Catherine Murphy Dunne Land Company in 1894 and established Oak Glen Ranch. James is credited with naming the area “Paradise Valley,” a name still used today. James and his wife Orra built a three-story farmhouse for the family. Their son Wilbur used the basement as a chicken hatchery. In 1922, their grandson Harold and his wife Alda (McIntosh) Ward (Paul’s parents), built a second house on the family’s property, near Machado School. This is where Paul grew up.
As a youth, Paul rode his bike along unpaved Oak Glen Avenue, swam in Llagas Creek, and hunted wild game in the hills. He was baptized in Morgan Hill’s United Methodist Church. His family cleared a portion of their land and sold the lumber as their first cash crop. Then they planted peaches, prunes and walnuts. Like many other local families who lived through the Great Depression, hard work, a neighborly mindset and an agrarian way of life put the Wards on solid footing.
Paul had fond memories of school days at the one-room Machado School, which was just across the orchard from his home. One of his school duties was to arrive early and light the wood stove to warm up the classroom before everyone arrived. He enjoyed basketball and listening to cowboy music and jazz on the radio. As automobiles became popular, there were family road trips, including one that took them all the way to eastern Canada to meet his mother’s family.
Paul graduated as salutatorian of his class at Live Oak High School in 1941. That fall, he headed to UC Berkeley to study forestry and compete in the boxing club. However, World War II cut his college plans short.
He enlisted at age 19 and headed to Texas for Air Force basic training in 1943. Paul graduated among the top fighter pilots in his class and was retained by the Air Force as an instructor. He trained on the B-17 Flying Fortress and other noteworthy military aircraft and was promoted to second lieutenant at age 20.
After the war, Paul resumed his studies at UC Berkeley where he met and fell in love with fellow student Anne Polich. They married in 1947 and both graduated the following year. Paul quickly landed work in lumber sales—a smart move given the boom in suburban development at that time.
Paul and Anne built a house in the Berkeley hills and started a family in the 1950s. Paul’s career required that the family move a few times but his hard work was rewarded with promotions. Outside of work, Paul followed in his father’s footsteps as a Master Mason and member of the Scottish Rite. He also enjoyed traveling to far-flung places including China, Croatia, the Arctic, and along the Amazon River.
In 1973, Paul and family returned to Paradise Valley. They moved into the original Ward farmhouse once occupied by his grandparents and great-grandparents. According to his son Ron, Paul often said the best decision of his life was to leave the corporate world, return to Morgan Hill, and become a lumber wholesaler. He worked out of his basement (formerly Grandfather Wilbur’s hatchery), braving the cold mornings and crowing roosters that disrupted his sales calls. In 2014, Paul was chosen by his industry colleagues as “Old Time Lumberman of the Year.”
Paul helped found the Machado School Heritage Society and proudly served as its president for 35 years. He was also an active member of the Morgan Hill Historical Society. One year, he generously opened Oak Glen Ranch for an historic home tour hosted by the Historical Society. Paul enjoyed the Historical Society’s Annual Founders Dinner, the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and Friday lunches with Pete Musachia and other good friends at Rosy’s at the Beach.
Paul was predeceased by his wife Anne, sister Wilma, and brother John; and is survived by sons Ron and Robert and Robert’s partner Martin Guerrero. Ron looked after his father from 2015 until his passing. Paul will be remembered for his love of life, laughter, and good times.
A memorial celebration will be announced in the early Spring. Those interested in contributing to a charitable organization in Paul’s honor are encouraged to donate to the Morgan Hill United Methodist Church, the Machado School Heritage Society, or the Morgan Hill Historical Society.
Watch Paul’s wonderful 2015 interview in Stories from the Past.