By Eric Haarer.
How does one sum up a life in a few paragraphs? Especially one as rich as Curt Ward’s. As I’ve enjoyed the “On the Shoulders Of…” articles recently in The Crestone Eagle, I’ve often thought, “If Curt (and of course his wife, Bernadette) were here, they’d be writing about him.”
Curt moved to the Baca with his wife and four children in 1982 from Sedona, Arizona. They were very good friends with the Carmelite community there, and came to help the Carmelites establish a center here in Crestone.
But long before the move, Curt had dreamt of one day becoming a storekeeper in a small mountain town. In 1984 that dream became a reality when he purchased the tiny general store in Crestone. For over the next three decades “Curt’s” became a central fixture for the residents of Crestone and the Baca. Far more than just a store, it was where one caught up on the latest gossip, shot the breeze with neighbors, grabbed a hot coffee, or warmed oneself by the oil stove. And Curt was more than just the guy behind the register; he was a friend, and a listening ear, especially for those who had troubles they needed to share, or who needed advice or encouragement, or who were lonely and simply wanted a friend to hang out with.
If you went into Curt’s store and asked him how he was, he’d usually reply, “Mean and ornery!” Yet he was anything but those. In fact, he was a man of deep compassion, and generous to a fault. There were many lean years in the 80s and 90s. And when Crestone became little more than a ghost town in wintertime, and people stretched to make ends meet, Curt let shoppers run up tabs which he oftentimes never collected. And some winters I think Curt gave away more groceries than he sold. He especially had a warm spot for struggling young families, and single parents. Many kids who might have gone hungry were kept fed through his generosity.
This compassion for struggling families reflected his love for his own family. He was absolutely devoted to Bernadette, his wife of over 58 years, often remarking that she was the best thing that ever happened to him. And he was a great dad to Matt, Steve, Amber, and Kevin, all of whom graduated from Moffat school, and all of whom went on to college, successful careers, and wonderful families of their own.
Curt spent the last few years of his life in a memory care center in Phoenix. It was sad to see one who gave us so many good memories lose his own. Yet even there he remained delightfully himself; a favorite of staff and other residents. And, as he hoped she would be, Bernadette was with him at the end. He is survived by his wife, four children, and lots of grandkids.
Devoted husband, loving father, storekeeper, community leader, generous giver, great singer, elegant dancer, reckless adventurer, jokester, and a dearly missed friend. Godspeed, Curt.