A Tribute to Aubrey Ward…

As a teacher, a principal, a coach, and an administrator, Aubrey Ward pushed his students to live up to their potential, both academically and athletically – but no harder than he pushed himself. If he said he was your friend, he WAS. If you asked for his opinion, he would tell you the truth as he knew it and understood it. He was one of a kind…

The clipping above is from the October 8, 1953 edition of The Post, of Big Stone Gap. The clipping below is from the Clinch Valley Times.

The clipping below is from the April 26, 1962 edition of The Post, of Big Stone Gap.

In 1964, Aubrey joined the faculty of St. Paul High School.

Although those long-ago students Aubrey once coached are now senior citizens, he still proudly referred to them as “MY BOYS.” The next 5 photos are from the 1964-65 and 1969-70 Estonoa yearbooks.

Aubrey’s skill as an athletic coach is often mentioned, but he was also an excellent math teacher. Many of his former students have commented on his ability to explain complex equations in a manner that could be readily understood.

Following the sudden death of Principal W. H. “Bill” Bowman in January of 1970, Aubrey Ward was appointed principal of the St. Paul School.

[Below] St. Paul Sports Banquet, April 1971

The following photos are from the Clinch Valley Times archives. They are just a few of the many in our files. Others will be added as we continue to index our negatives.



As a coach, teacher, administrator, and friend, Aubrey Ward touched the lives of numerous students, in the Wise County School System. The first time I met Mr. Ward was in 1966 when I was four years old. My dad had gone to the St Paul football field to get the press box ready for Friday night’s game. I got to go with him so mom could give my sister her bath in peace. When we got to the field the Deacons were practicing. Dad hooked up the score board, P.A. system, and game clock. He tested all the switches, lights and sound making sure everything worked while I sat on a stool and watched practice. A while later a loud whistle blew, all the players gathered around the coaches in the middle of the field. Dad said, “let’s go David, I need to talk to Mr. Ward. I jumped on his back, and he carried me down the bleachers. We walked down to the gym, went inside and dad asked, “Is anyone home”? A man answered, “I’m in here”. We walked into the coach’s office, dad and the man shook hands. The man looked at me and said, “Hello”. Dad said, “Davey, this is Mr. Ward, the Deacon football coach”. He knelt down and we shook hands. As I remember, he was very friendly, and had a loud voice like dad. Dad sat in a chair and put me on his lap. He and Mr. Ward talked about the team and the opponent. I listened closely for about five minutes, then hopped down on the floor and went to explore this huge, to a four-year old, building. I found myself in a room with footballs, shoulder pads, helmets, and all kinds of different shoes. Of course, I thought this was great. I tried on the helmets, shoes, and pads one by one until I found a helmet without a mask just like I had seen in a picture of my dad wearing his uniform. I grabbed a football and hurried back to the office. Dad and Mr. Ward were standing outside the office getting ready to come look for me. “Look daddy,” I said, “I found a football hat just like yours”. “Yes, you did,” he said, “Our helmets didn’t have face masks, that’s why my nose got broken”. He told me it was time to leave and to give the helmet and ball back to Coach Ward. Dad said we might get a chance to play a little bit before tomorrow night’s game. I gave Mr. Ward the helmet and ball and we walked toward the back door to leave. Mr. Ward said, “Wait a minute”, we stopped, and he went back into a room. When he came back, he tossed dad a football and said, “Davey, you and dad take this home and play all you want.” I told him thank you as I happily tossed the ball into the air. I’ve always remembered that first day I met Aubrey Ward.

Like many others, I have a lot of memories of Aubrey Ward. There were the several days he helped coach our elementary football team when the elementary program was just getting started. I remember running the same play on the same count until everyone did it correctly ten times in a row. Then we moved on to the next play. Another time, when most of our pre-algebra class was struggling to understand the concept of what we were doing, he stepped in and taught the class for a couple of weeks. By the end of his time with us we fully understood what we were doing. Then, there was the summer of 1979. Dad and I would go down to the baseball field two or three times a week to practice. He would throw batting practice to me then hit me a trash can full of baseballs for my defensive work. One day Mr. Ward stopped by the field, he and dad talked a few minutes and he left. That short conversation turned into six or seven guys showing up two days a week with a couple of other dads. That summer work helped our team earn the 1980 Black Diamond District Co-Championship and an appearance in the Region D Tournament. From there the Deacon baseball program would appear in 24 consecutive Region D tournaments.

Mr. Ward along with SPHS Band Director Doug Salyer helped me personally when I was given the opportunity to become a member of the 1980 United States Colligiate Wind Bands European Tour. As one of four hundred high school concert band students nationally, we were divided into four bands of 100 members each. However, before any of that happened, there was paperwork to take care of, travel information, passports, airline tickets etc. Mr. Ward, Mr. Salyer, my parents and several others even did some fundraising on my behalf.

When I began my freshman year at Virginia Tech, he took time out of his workday to call me several times during my first quarter to check on me and ask how things were going.

The one thing I will remember most of all was our class graduation. As well as being our principal Mr. Ward was also the guest speaker that evening. He took us back to our days as first graders and touched on all the important and transitional points of our school days. Some of his words were very touching and brought tears to our eyes. He also gave us and the audience a great deal of laughter and tears of joy. I will always remember him as a tough but fair and hardworking educator that cared about all his students and as a personal friend. Thank You, God, for Aubrey Ward.

3 thoughts on “A Tribute to Aubrey Ward…

  1. Thank you for posting the well deserved tribute to Aubrey Ward. Aubrey was an accomplished educator and coach. Whatever position he held, he was a leader and a great motivator. Coach Ward was a good and decent man, he will be missed.

    Jim Dorton
    SPHS ’65

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