On Monday, July 20th, 2020, John Alton Ward Jr. died in Burlington Vermont where he was being treated for cancer. His wife Maureen of 31 years was by his side. John was born on August 20, 1939 in Brasher Falls to J. Alton and Alyce (Rushford) Ward. John graduated from St. Lawrence Central in Brasher Falls and received his Associates Degree in Hotel and Business Management from Canton ATC in 1959. From there John held the position as manager of the Toledo Country Club in Toledo Ohio. He then joined the Molson Brewing company in their sales department and became a huge promoter for the newly formed Montreal Expos.
John then joined the Management Team of the St. Regis Hotel in Saranac Lake, NY along with owner Gilbert Jones. Gil credited John as being a large part of the success the St. Regis achieved. All the while John was living elsewhere his heart was in Brasher Falls and in 1964 he returned to Brasher to own and operate Ward’s Hotel and Restaurant. Simultaneously he managed the Tradewinds Hotel in Plattsburgh in 1965 and in 1966 he took on the responsibilities of managing the Helena House as well. (It is just so boring, running only one place!). John continued to run Ward’s Hotel until it was lost in a fire in 1981. As we expressed our condolences on the loss of a family treasure, John’s response was: “Hey not everyone gets to begin again in life; I have that chance”. He always found the bright spots. And so, he operated the Potsdam Town and Country Club facility, known as Ward’s Restaurant from 1981-1994. In the 1960s, he began work on building the campground along the river, and in 1982 he built Erin’s Isle restaurant also on the river in downtown Brasher. In the winter of 1983 John, together with his brother Mike, established and operated Erin’s Isle Restaurant in Naples, FL John retired from the business in 2004 and Mike continued to run it until he sold it in 2019.
During his time spent in Saranac Lake John was a member of the Two Man Bobsled team along with his long-time friend Gil Jones. In 1965 John and Gil won the honor of racing in the World Bobsled Championship in St. Moritz Switzerland.
Throughout all of this though, John’s real passion was Brasher Falls. In 1965 he, along with other business folks in Brasher Falls established the Brasher Chamber of Commerce and brought the first Winter Carnival to Brasher Falls. They also brought the medical center to Winthrop during this time, and they began the project of building the Senior Housing Community (LBSH) in Brasher. With Ward’s Hotel, as with the subsequent Erin’s Isle Restaurant and the St. Regis Campground, John wanted to create places where the folks in Brasher Falls could gather to share a meal, to celebrate the highlights in their lives (graduations, weddings, class reunions etc),. “A place where everybody knows your name, and they’re really glad you came”. It was with this thought ever present in the front of his mind that he worked to establish the St. Regis Realty Group and began the refurbishment of downtown Brasher. As small towns all over the state and country were dying, John and Maureen and community investors were determined as ever to keep Brasher Falls alive. They brought Health Care to downtown Brasher, the Library ( a rarity in a small town), the IGA and the many other businesses that have opened in Brasher Falls. His heart was always, and will forever be, in Brasher Falls.
And now he has received his final call, a sort of offer he couldn’t refuse. This call comes with a huge sign-on-bonus – a reunion with dear family and friends – at the new Erins Isle in the Sky.
John is survived by his wife, Maureen, children Michael (Michelle ) Concord, NC; Peter (Cynthia) Saratoga Springs, NY; Margaret, Brasher Falls, NY. Grandchildren: Alana (Thomas), Hannah, Aubrey, John, Kellen, Mia. Siblings: Margaret (Charlie) Roser, Clemmons, NC; Patricia Ward (Paula Jones), Naples FL, Michael (Terry) Ward, Naples FL, sister-in-law Diane Ward, Malone, NY, and several nieces and nephews. Also surviving Dennis Moody, Brasher Falls who shared a mutually unbroken bond with John from the time he was a child. John was predeceased by his Father, J. Alton (1981) Mother, Alyce (1993) brothers Timothy (1999) and Thomas( 1969).
Arrangements are with Hammill Funeral Home in Brasher Falls, NY. Public calling hours will be held on August 9, 2020 from 2-5. Due to NYS mandates, masks will be required and social distancing will be maintained. A private mass of Christian burial will be held at St. Patrick’s Church in Brasher Falls, NY. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the John Ward Community Spirit Scholarship – an annual scholarship for a graduating Senior from St. Lawrence Central who exhibits the qualities that John embodied during his life. John was driven, resilient, hard-working and demonstrated a dedication to his community and family that is unsurpassed. . Donations can be sent to: St Lawrence Central School (with John Ward Community Spirit Scholarship in the memo line). They should be mailed to :
St. Lawrence Central School
1039 State Highway 11C
Brasher Falls, NY 13613
Attn: Business office.