WORT has learned that former programmer Chris Ward has passed away. Ward died of a heart attack at the age of 60 in Washington, DC where he lived with his wife, Saaraliisa Ylitalo. Chris Ward was a popular figure on WORT in the early 1980s, hosting the Breakfast Special from 1984-85, a rock program called Tirebiter’s Tunes (after the Firesign Theatre character) as well as numerous episodes of the noontime call-in show “A Public Affair”. His most famous guests included beat poets Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg. In 1984 he interviewed feminist presidential candidate Sonia Johnson.
Ward left the Breakfast Special in February 1985 to take a job with the US Information Agency, a division of USAID, and served in Japan, Peru, Costa Rica, South Africa and Haiti. But among Federal employees, he was best known for his successful 6-time appearance on the popular TV game show “Jeopardy!” where, between 1998-1999, he won over $63,000 and two Chevy Camaros.
In this clip from WORT’s “A Public Affair” in December 1983, Ward hosts one of his regular trivia call-in programs:
TAPE: 39 sec outcue: “…..everyone will want to own.”
Chris Ward will be missed by all of his WORT friends and colleagues.
TAPE: 9 sec outcue: “….music for the rest of the afternoon.”
Chris’s family writes:
It’s with a heavy heart that we must announce our beloved Chris passed away this Monday, October 19th from a cardiac episode. A Remembrance is being held this Saturday, October 24th at 2:00 PM at Kenmore Middle School, where he taught, at 200 Carlin Springs Road, Arlington. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to Blue Ventures, a Marine Life Conservation Association working to create sustainable fisheries in international communities (http://www.virginmoneygiving.
This short bio of Chris was shared at the memorial service on October 24th in Arlington, VA:
Christopher Donald Ward (July 17, 1955 – October 19, 2015) lived a life full of adventure and love. He had many passions; he loved knowledge, irony, and the absurd in all of the arts. We all know his love of reading constantly. But above all else, his family was what he treasured the most. He knew it was a special group.
He was born to Donald B. Ward and Vera Bantz Ward on July 17, 1955, in Evanston, IL. Don was a Congregational minister and Vera was an actress on the TV and stage. He had two older sisters, Mari McCarty (Dan) and Laura Mollet (Mark). He spent his early years in Yankton, SD, where his father was the president of Yankton College, founded by Chris’s great-grandfather, Joseph Ward (1838-1889). Chris was proud of his family heritage and often told people about Joseph Ward’s statue in DC’s Capitol Building. His last home was also just one mile away from Ward Circle, dedicated to his great- great- great- great- grand-uncle, Major General Artemas Ward (1727-1800).
He met his wife, Saaraliisa, in college in Appleton, Wisconsin while attending Lawrence University, before he transferred to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. One of the first homes they made together was in Madison, Wisconsin where he was voted the best DJ in Madison on WORT. He then began his long career in the Foreign Service, traveling the world with his now growing family, his and Saaraliisa’s three beautiful children: Vanessa, Heather, and Seth. They lived in Costa Rica twice, Japan, Peru, and South Africa. After retiring from the Foreign Service in 2008, he chose to teach in Arlington Public Schools, eventually becoming a full-time substitute teacher at Kenmore Middle School. Along the way he also made many good friends, was a five-time Jeopardy! champion (1998), named “the most romantic man” in Madison by the Isthmus newspaper, and bore an uncanny resemblance to Mark Twain.
He was immensely proud of his children’s adventures and accomplishments. Vanessa was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, and now lives in DC with her husband Tim and two children, Sonia and Evelyn. Heather is a PhD of Marine Biology, having studied sexual selection of octopuses at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Seth studied art and graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University, and now lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Jess, where he works in the Hollywood film industry.
Chris absorbed the world everyday, and in any way he could. He lived his life fully to the very last minute. With his family he traveled, lived, and loved. His kindness, wit and warmth has left all of us with memories we will cherish always. He was very deeply loved, and will be missed.