"Minnie Ward was an institution in our community. In her own way she commanded the respect of everybody. She always gave far more than she received." ---former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown
I asked Minnie Ward at least five times over three years if she would sit for a taped interview. Everyone in the OMI neighborhood mentioned her as a "must" person to talk with. Minnie and her husband Lovie had fought for Sheridan School to be rebuilt (Ironically, in the month after her death the Board of Education talked about closing Sheridan! One knows Minnie and Lovie would have been front and center at those meetings putting a stop to that idea.)
They led the charge to take back the Ocean View Recreation Center from drug dealers. When the dealers shot up the front of their house in retaliation, Minnie and Lovie didn't back down.
I saw the Wards at every community meeting, barbeque, and celebration in the neighborhood. Even at history talks I gave that drew 15 people, Minnie and Lovie were there in the front row.
Each time I asked Minnie if she'd be interviewed, she always said "Yes, of course, I'd be happy to... Let me go home and check my schedule." Then I would call her to set a date, and instead she'd start telling me on the phone all the great changes and challenges that remained in the neighborhood. But somehow the date for the formal interview just couldn't get nailed down.
Minnie was a registered nurse, just like other great community leaders in the OMI: Agnes Morton, Peter Vaernet... I suppose it's a nurse's nature to get out and heal, to fix what's broken.
About a week before Minnie passed away, a neighbor asked if I'd ever gotten that interview, and when I sighed that I didn't, he said, "She's the one."
But since her death, I've come to think it was appropriate that the interview never happened. Minnie left behind a better neighborhood, an inspirational legacy, intelligent and well-spoken children and grandchildren who exude poise and leadership...
She told her story not on tape, but in actions, in results.
We'll all miss you, Minnie!
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This project is made possible by a grant from the CALIFORNIA COUNCIL FOR THE HUMANITIES with generous support from the San Francisco Foundation, as part of the Council's statewide California Stories Initiative. The COUNCIL is an independent non-profit organization and a state affiliate of the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES. For more information on the Council and the California Stories Initiative, visit www.californiastories.org.
Page launched 29 January 2006.