Irma Ward, charismatic religious leader, finishes her life in Oregon at age 103

Irma Ward was born Jan. 20, 1911 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents were Hugo and Bertha Hermann, German immigrants. When she was a child, the family moved to Antelope Valley in the Mojave Desert. Irma stayed with a family near her school during the week, and went home to her parents on weekends.
When she was eight, Irma tried to take a shortcut to school. Suddenly she was standing in a farm field, wearing a little red dress, being chased by an angry bull. A nearby farmer jumped the fence on horseback on swept her up out of harm’s way.
Eventually Irma moved back to Los Angeles with her family. She was about to graduate from high school at the age of 16. She was standing on the street with her mother and brother when a car lost control and hit them. Two weeks away from graduation, Irma had to drop out of high school to help with her family obligations. About this time she felt a calling to the full-time ministry.
Irma took summer school, attended McKay Commercial College, found a job, and moved on to Life Bible College. At 22, she graduated with honors and served as graduation speaker. She was ordained into the ministry in 1935.
With the depression in full swing, Irma took off with another female evangelist and drove cross-country in a junky old Model T, leaving behind a wake of tent meetings, hymn fests, and energized Christians.
Her Odyssey across the US brought her to the Milan area where she organized a tent meeting. She put down some roots in Milan when the Marble Memorial United Methodist church offered her a job as youth worker. Then she met her husband, Larry Ward, whom she married in July 1947.
Over the years she was involved in community projects across the landscape. She was co-leader of a youth choir with over 50 members. She and her husband hosted exchange students from Germany and Japan. She was part of a singing group that entertained at the first Milan Fair in 1948. She served as chaplain for over 30 years at the Ypsilanti Regional Psychiatric Hospital. She worked with special education students. She was part of the Milan Music Study Club, Milan Senior Council, Church Women United, Girl Scout Leader, and board member of Huron Valley Girl Scout Council. She was involved with the Milan Community Council; Monroe County Human Relations Council; Michigan United Way; Milan Public Library; Aid in Milan; Detroit United Methodist Conference; School of Mission; Youth Work; Sunday School Teacher for students and adults; and “story lady” for vacation Bible school sessions.
When Milan residents celebrated Irma’s 100th birthday in 2011, Karen Bolz had the foresight to ask about her life, providing information used here.
In April 2011, Irma and Larry Ward moved to Grants Pass, Oregon to be near her family. He passed away Oct. 3, 2012 in Oregon. She passed away June 8, 2014, in Grants Pass, age 103.
Irma Ward’s Celebration of Life is planned Saturday, July 12 at 11:00 a.m. at Marble Memorial United Methodist Church, Milan. There will be a luncheon afterwards at the Milan Free Methodist Church. For additional information, call Ochalek-Stark Funeral Home at 439-1100

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