WILMINGTON — To many, Allen Ward was known as “the man who lived under the bridge.”
It sounds like a fairy tale, but to Bill and Angie Howell, Ward was real, and a friend.
Ward died Sunday at Clinton Memorial Hospital. He was 60 years old and is survived by three brothers, two sisters and two cousins, among others.
Bill Howell met Ward in the gymnasium at the Wilmington junior high school, and he remembers Ward for his cowboy clothes, kind heart, love of Wilmington, hard partying and as a good friend.
“He just liked to have fun, but he wouldn’t go against anybody or hurt anybody to have fun,” Bill said. “He was almost like a brother to me, and he was a good man.”
At school, Ward liked to dress in cowboy clothes – a tradition he kept throughout life. In fact, he was spotted wearing such a hat recently, before his death.
While many people gave Ward food, clothes, money and other items, including the Howells, who brought him food for holidays and invited him to stay, Ward also gave things to others.
Bill and Angie said Ward gave toys to their children and would give money to others who needed it when he had it.
“He was like a Santa Claus,” Bill said. “He would never forget whoever helped him.”
Angie said she and Bill tried to help Ward by giving him things and inviting him to stay. Once, when they convinced him to stay, he refused to sleep inside, instead setting up a cot outside.
Angie and Bill said they’d like to see a local service held to remember Ward, who will be cremated with no funeral service currently planned.
“We’re all people,” Angie said. “We’re all human life. Regardless of the way he chose to live. … Everybody in Wilmington knows him or knows about him.”
“It would be nice to have a service for him,” Bill said. “Allen was a good fella. He loved Wilmington. … He had a lot of friends around here, and just about everybody in town knew him.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.