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James W. Ward, 67, longtime figure in Western New York politics

Feb. 21, 1950 -- Sept. 7, 2017

James W. Ward was a man of many interests and, once he latched onto something, he tended to dig in deep -- whether it was the years he spent in public service in Niagara County, his memberships in community organizations, or his penchant for sports memorabilia and old candy boxes.

"Whatever Jim did, he was not just a card-holder, someone along for the ride. He always threw himself into it. And, there were always things he was throwing himself into," said his wife of 43 years,  the former Linda J. Hughes.

Mr. Ward, 67, of Newfane, died Thursday in a sudden turn of events for the family. He was diagnosed Aug. 1 with advanced gastroesophageal cancer, a shock because he hadn't been sick up to that time, his wife said.

The funeral on Sept. 12 is the day the couple had long planned to leave for Florida, where they had purchased a vacation home.

Mr. Ward was born in Lockport, the son of the late Wallace T. and May E. Ward. He graduated from Lockport High School in 1968 and earned a bachelor's degree in public relations from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

He served more than 22 years in the State Senate and was an elected Niagara County legislator for eight years. He was appointed by former Gov. George E. Pataki to the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission for four years and also held the position of town justice for the Town of Newfane.

In addition, he founded his own packaging design business.

Mr. Ward more recently served as executive adviser to former state Sen. George Maziarz and then state Sen. Robert Ortt, retiring in 2016.

"The political life is not for the faint of heart. Jim used to talk about how there are good people and good ideas out there but, unfortunately, politics can at times get in the way of them. It's a frustrating part of politics," his wife Linda said. "But Jim liked the part about helping people and making connections with them. He liked to find a thread, something in common, whether he was talking to the governor or a 90-year-old resident he represented."

Mr. Ward played an active role in the community, serving as the director for a number of nonprofit boards including those at Eastern Niagara Hospital, the Health Association of Niagara County, the Niagara County Community Action Program, the Niagara County Historical Society, the Town of Newfane Tourism Board, the Newfane Lions Club, the Krull-Olcott Development Committee, the Olcott Beach Community Association and the Olcott Beach Carousel Association.

Mr. Ward was currently serving on the Niagara County Community College board of directors and was a past president of that group. He also was a member of the Tuscarora Club of Lockport.

He coached soccer, baseball and basketball. And -- known for his commanding voice -- he announced Little League football games, when his children were younger.

Mr. Ward was a collector who could often be found driving to wherever a famous sports star -- especially baseball players -- was signing autographs. He collected baseballs and bats with many autographs.

He and his wife also liked searching for antiques, with Mr. Ward eventually focused on a search for old or odd candy boxes.

"It was like everything else with him. Once he got into something, he was all in," his wife said.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two sons, James and Sean; a daughter, Tracey Baron; six grandchildren; a brother, John; and a sister, Julie Askew.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Prudden & Kandt Funeral Home, 242 Genesee St., Lockport.

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