By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week. This week’s column features Dorris Ward, who now lives in Hattiesburg. Dorris grew up in the Jumper’s Chapel Community and I’m going to let him tell his story in his own words. Due to constraints of space this is part one and part two will be in the next column.
“Born June 11, 1926, in Water Valley, I am a son of Robert Lee and Ella Frances Sharpe Ward. Ours was a large family—seven sisters and three brothers—with my twin brother, Horace, and I being the youngest. My parents had very strong Christian beliefs and I remember my father kneeling and praying each night before going to sleep, and my mother reading her Bible daily. She was very patient and kindhearted and tried to help everyone.
We lived on a farm, where cotton, corn, peanuts, watermelons, cantaloupes, and hay, were grown. We all worked to maintain the farm and I was picking cotton by age six, and by 12 my twin and I worked the farm, because father worked for the ICC 80 miles away in Memphis. He outlined our work duties each week before going to Memphis and we knew we’d better get that list completed before he returned for the weekend. During the depression he let us work Saturdays to earn extra money at pay of a dollar a day. We unloaded boxcars for Merchants Grocery and the girls hoed cotton.
In 1938 I turned 12 and two important events happened in my life—I was saved and joined Palestine Methodist Church and the Lord saved my life for the first of five times. I became very ill and the doctor was not sure what was wrong with me. It turned out my appendix had ruptured and infection set in leaving me very sick, but the Lord healed me.
At 17, after graduating from WV High School, my twin and I enlisted in the Navy and served from June 1944 to May 1946. Basic training was at Camp Perry in Virginia and then I was sent to the Marshall Islands in the Northern Pacific, where we were at war with Japan. First island I was on was Roi—a Japanese carrier began bombing us and without enough fire power, we were overnight moved to Kwajalein, an island the U.S. had already taken. There we built an airstrip for our aircraft to land between bombing runs, guarded prisoners, assisted Captain Thompson, by making notes of activity at guard command posts.
In service I felt the Lord protecting my life two more times. Once while heading by ship to Kwajalein, under heavy fire. Next morning, I saw all the empty life boats floating, but somehow we were spared. The other was aboard the USS Artemus, when I got really sea sick from the rough seas. In the middle of a typhoon, I went top side for fresh air and a large wave swept over the deck, almost sending me overboard.”
Dorris will continue his story starting after the war in part two.
This meant a lot to me and I would urge any of you who want to profile someone to let me hear from you, as it is not possible for me to see everyone in person.
My email address is still firstname.lastname@example.org, or write me at P. O. Box 613189, Memphis, TN 38101, and have a great week.