On February 21, 1937, Arley Roy Ward was born on the family kitchen table in Pocola, Oklahoma to Willie Ward and Lena Juanita Kennedy Ward. Soon, his only brother James Garvis joined the family. Early on, his love of sports and inherent athletic ability proved undeniable. Highlights include a 39-point personal best basketball game against Howe and an undefeated record as a pitcher on the Pocola High School team. The fact that he only pitched one game never dissuaded him from exercising his bragging rights.
On June 21, 1957, he married Anna Lou Purdom in Paso Robles, California in a double ceremony with Herman Judge Shaw and the bride's sister Glenna Purdom before leaving for Pusan, Korea as an Army Engineer assigned to an Air Force unit. Again, athletics played a role as he led his unit's volleyball team to a second-place finish in the Armed Forces Pacific Championships.
After his tour ended, he and Anna moved to Tulsa where they welcomed their first child, Kelley Ann Ward and he began working as a welder at National Tank. After achieving his bachelor's degree in education, Arley began coaching basketball at Tahlequah Junior High School and eventually the high school where in 1976, he led the boys team to the State Semi Finals before being robbed by a bogus call. He would loathe referees for the rest of his life. During his years at Tahlequah, he and Anna were blessed with their sons, Arley Roy Ward, II and Shane Brumley Ward.
In 1980 be began a storied career at Peggs Elementary School and served as coach, history teacher, and principal as he oversaw the largest growth phase in the history of the school. Tragically, his beloved Anna passed away in 1985 shaking his world. Shortly before moving to Locust Grove, Arley met and married the second love of his life, Karen Sue Adams. At Locust Grove, he worked as the high school principal, the first five-on-five girls basketball coach, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. During these years, he was thrilled to welcome his second round of children Kash Kerns, Keely "Scortchey" Kerns, and Sue "the Suester" Kerns before retiring and returning to Peggs to continue his coaching career where he won two silver balls. He lived in southeastern Oklahoma until the sudden passing of Karen after which he returned to Tahlequah. His greatest joys later in life included getting to know Shane's husband Dr. Raymond Jones, whom he loved very much and complaining about the decline of high school basketball in Oklahoma.
Any athlete, in sport or in life, is judged by their stats and Arley's are impressive, 81 years, two wives of 25-plus years each, three children, three grandchildren, over 500 games coached and won, including that perfect pitching record, and his mark left upon the lives of thousands. Clearly the man, the father, the husband, and the coach is hall of fame material.
In lieu of flowers or plants, the family requests that a donation be made to AWard Shoes, a charitable organization created in memory of Arley Ward that provides basketball shoes for economically underprivileged students from Cherokee County grades 5 - 8. Donations can be made in person at any BancFirst location across the state of Oklahoma or mailed to PO Box 1068, Tahlequah, OK 74464. Make checks payable to AWard Shoes.