A community honors one of its finest

By Sam Wall

Adam Ward was a Salem High School graduate and Virginia Tech alumnus. He was a photographer for WDBJ7. He and fellow journalist, Alison Parker, were tragically taken from this world on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Photo courtesy WDBJ7.
Adam Ward was a Salem High School graduate and Virginia Tech alumnus. He was a photographer for WDBJ7. He and fellow journalist, Alison Parker, were tragically taken from this world on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Photo courtesy WDBJ7.

When such a horrific tragedy occurs, like the one that took the life of Adam Ward, how a community responds is often the greatest indicator of just how special that person was.

For someone like Adam, that couldn’t be more true. Those who came into contact with him, whether they were friends, family, former teachers, co-workers or even just acquaintances, understood that there was no better all-around human being than him.

Adam, who worked at WDBJ7 as a photographer, was beloved by his co-workers for his upbeat, positive attitude and his great work ethic.

“When I started there, it was blatantly obvious that he was a lot of people’s favorite person,” said fellow WDBJ photographer Brandon Oubre. “Adam was so accessible, so ready to talk to people–people ready to talk to him.”

“He was always interested in how your day was going, how your work was,” he added. “He was just that guy that everybody…That everybody liked.”

Oubre, who started out on the morning shift with Adam before moving to the day shift, was equally impressed with Adam’s work ethic and dedication to reporting the news. Oubre explained how Adam did whatever was asked of him, and even came to work with a fractured foot.

“He had one of those boots on and still came in to work and never complained, never took any time off,” admired Oubre. “Whatever he needed to do, he was going to do it.”

Justin Ward, the New River Valley bureau chief for WDBJ7, also has all fond memories of Adam.

“He was always willing to work, always willing to try new things,” Ward said. “I never heard a complaint out of him.”

Ward’s fondest memory of Adam is how much he cared about the people he worked with.

“No matter what kind of day somebody else was having, Adam would seem like he was having a better day, and he would want you to have a better day too,” he said. “I loved that about him.”

Nick Beaty, who in addition to working with Adam at WDBJ7, also went to school with him at Salem High.

“He was a grade above me,” Beaty said. “Adam was the kind of person that, no matter what grade you were in, no matter what group you were a part of, to him, you were buddies. His voice was so loud that it would echo through the halls. I’d always hear him say ‘what’s up, buddy!’ to everyone: skaters, football players, hunters, car guys, whoever. I was just some random skater kid that played soccer. He knew my brother, my older sister, my mom and me. He always asked how they’re doing. He always resonated with your problems. He could understand what you going through and then give you advice, which I admired about him. Not many people would take the time out of their day to do that. It really tells you the kind of person he was, very thoughtful.”

In addition to Adam’s beloved attitude and kindness, he is also remembered as an avid sports fan.

“He loved Friday Football Extra,” Ward said. “He was a huge part of that, and so was his dad Buddy.”

Helping Adam keep stats for the high school football show was only one of many things that they enjoyed doing together.

Salem high school principal, Scott Habeeb, shared just how special Adam and his father’s relationship truly was.

“I think the thing that I will remember and cherish the most is how much he and his dad loved each other,” Habeeb said. “I remember when Adam was a little kid and he would tag along with his dad at Salem High School events; you could tell that his dad was his hero, and that never seemed to change as he got older. In fact, Adam almost seemed to be his dad’s hero, too.”

The fond memories of Adam seem to be endless by those who knew him. That was evident at the memorial viewing held for him on Monday afternoon at Salem High School. Everyone from close friends, former classmates and even members of the community that did not know Adam personally, waited in long lines that wrapped around the halls of the school just for a chance to pay their respects to his family.

In addition to the memorial service, hundreds more attended his funeral that was held at First Baptist Church in Roanoke on Tuesday.

Trying to define Adam with words alone is nearly impossible. Will Secor, Adam’s friend from childhood said it best:

“What I’ll always remember about Adam is… Well I can’t sum Adam up in one sentence,” Secor wrote in a letter

Adam Ward (left) with one of his best friends, Will Secor. Photo courtesy Will Secor.
Adam Ward (left) with one of his best friends, Will Secor. Photo courtesy Will Secor.

to the media. “He was greater than the sum of his parts. Always doing more and giving more. He was a great friend, son, brother and fiancé.”

Those who want to show their continued support can donate to either or both of the scholarships that have been established in his name.

The Salem Educational Foundation and Alumni Association established a scholarship in memory of Adam Ward, a 2007 graduate of Salem High School and a 2011 Virginia Tech alumnus. The endowment will benefit a graduate of Salem High School who is headed to Virginia Tech to pursue a career in journalism or photojournalism. Donations can be made through the foundation’s website.

The Adam L. Ward Scholarship at Virginia Tech is through WDBJ. Donations can be sent to the TV station at 2807 Hershberger Road, N.W., Roanoke, Va., 24017. Checks can also be made out to the Virginia Tech Foundation Inc. with “In memory of Adam Ward” in the memo. Those should be mailed to the Office of Gift Accounting at University Gateway Center, Virginia Tech, 902 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, Va., 24061.

Donations can also be made online, where the “enter your own” designation should be filled out with “In memory of Adam Ward.”

He is survived by his loving father and mother, Buddy and Mary Ward; sister and brother-in-law, Sarah and Dave Crowder; brother, Jay Ward; fiancée, Melissa Ott; and niece, Olivia, or “tater tot” as her uncle Adam affectionately called her. He is also survived by numerous uncles and aunts; cousins; and a host of friends he considered family.

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