Pat Ward recently retired as a volunteer chaplain with the Mukilteo Police Department and Everett and Lake Stevens fire departments. Here, she is shown helping as 100+ Women Who Care About Snohomish County donates money to Mercy Watch in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Pat Ward recently retired as a volunteer chaplain with the Mukilteo Police Department and Everett and Lake Stevens fire departments. Here, she is shown helping as 100+ Women Who Care About Snohomish County donates money to Mercy Watch in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Police chaplain’s own losses helped her reach out in empathy

Pat Ward retires from volunteer chaplaincy after 16 years with Mukilteo, Lake Stevens and Everett.

Pat Ward says the best decision she ever made brought her into the lives of people experiencing their worst moments.

She recently retired as a volunteer chaplain with the Mukilteo Police Department. Ward has also served with the Everett and Lake Stevens fire departments, in all, completing 16 years in a chaplaincy role.

Day and night, she was called out to offer comfort to families after homicides, suicides, fires, accidents and deaths from natural causes. She attended funerals for three young people killed in a 2016 shooting at a Mukilteo party.

“You cannot replace Pat Ward,” Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang said in a statement before a Feb. 21 reception in Ward’s honor at Mukilteo City Hall. “Her absence will leave an irreplaceable void.” Even so, Kang added, he’s happy the longtime chaplain has more time to spend with family.

She’s already doing that. After retiring Feb. 1, she moved east of the mountains to Ellensburg. Her son Jon Ward, who teaches in Central Washington University’s film program, lives there with his wife and two children. Her grandson is 12 and her granddaughter is 14.

Jon Ward is also a member of the Kittitas Valley Healthcare board of commissioners, but his mother said she’s in no hurry to consider becoming a hospital chaplain.

“I am truly truly retired,” said Pat Ward, who doesn’t share her age.

Ward believes her impulse to ease the pain of others was born of her own losses. She and her late husband, William “Bill” Ward, were young parents living in the Echo Lake area of Shoreline when their firstborn son, 2½-year-old Michael, drowned.

It was a cold February day in 1963, but in 57 years the awful details of that day haven’t faded. She remembers a sheriff walking toward her to deliver the worst news after her child wandered off and was found in the lake.

And 11 years ago, in 2009, another son died of a brain aneurysm. He was 47.

“I think it made me a better chaplain,” said Ward. She didn’t often share her own grief with the people she met as a chaplain, but said “every once in awhile — it gives me compassion.”

Her empathy also grew from years of working in the funeral industry.

“We made it easier for grieving families,” she said. After leaving that job, “I really, truly missed it.”

It took more than personal experience for Ward to step into the role of chaplain, which she said is “the best decision I ever made.”

In 2004, she graduated from a chaplains’ academy program offered at the state Criminal Justice Training Commission’s center in Burien. She also qualified for membership in the International Conference of Police Chaplains.

After leaving the funeral business, Ward’s interest in becoming a chaplain was sparked when she attended a talk by Jack Geer. A longtime friend of hers, in retirement Geer was a chaplain at the Snohomish County Jail. The Everett man, who died in 2015, was involved with King’s Garden, which grew into Crista Ministries and King’s Schools in Shoreline.

Herald readers have met Ward before. In 2017, her story of survival was featured in a front-page article by Sara Bruestle.

Ward was out for breakfast with friends at Jimmy Jacks, a south Everett restaurant, when she suffered an aortic dissection, a tear in the largest artery of the body. The help of Heidi McCown, a server at the restaurant who performed CPR, and a seven-hour surgery saved Ward’s life.

It was the same heart condition that killed actor Jon Ritter in 2003.

Bob Johnson, Ward’s boyfriend, was there that Saturday morning when Ward collapsed. He and another friend made the quick decision to call to 911. Today, Ward and Johnson share a home in Ellensburg — “I think I’m in heaven, I’ve been here seven days,” she said last week.

“I’m doing well,” Ward said. “I’m so blessed to have survived.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Soper Hill roundabout and pedestrian trail work wraps up

Lake Stevens and Marysville worked together on the traffic infrastructure because of nearby development.

Rep. Larsen tours small businesses given federal PPP loans

The congressman said leaders in Washington D.C. continue to negotiate for further COVID-19 relief.

Deputies: ‘Abnormal strength’ led to forceful arrest in 2018

Newly released reports give Snohomish County deputies’ side in a case that’s now central to a lawsuit.

Oak Harbor Public Schools decide on plan for fall opening

Conditions which must be met for a combination of in-person education and distance learning.

Police dog nabs, nips man suspected of burgling smoke shops

Monroe police arrested a man after two smoke shops were broken into Monday morning.

Local families praise state’s online early education program

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program found creative ways to reach kids during COVID.

Some waited months for jobless benefits, and some wait still

Not all 81,000 cases are resolved, but some people finally received thousands of dollars in back payments.

New help during COVID: Counselors reach out with resources

Funded by the CARES Act, 10 community social workers are deployed across Snohomish County.

Latest COVID spike may have peaked in July, data shows

New numbers are a positive step forward, but some metrics are headed in the wrong direction.

Most Read