The Valley of Heart's Delight

Mr. and Mrs. William B. Ward
Pioneer Undertakers of Santa Clara County

Mr. and Mrs. William B. Ward - The eminently desirable advancements, of one kind or another, made in the science and art of
modern American undertaking owe much to such farsighted, idealistic men as William B. Ward, and indeed to such remarkable women as his accomplished wife who, owing to the fact that Mr. Ward has been an invalid for the past twenty-five years or more, has been conducting the business as perhaps the first woman registered as an embalmer in the State of California.

Mr. Ward is a New Yorker by birth, having begun life at Utica in the eventful year of "49, when so many were beginning
their gold-seeking careers far to the west; in the excellent schools of the Empire State he was given his first preparation for a vigorous matching-up with the world; and in 1868 he pushed westward, in the wake of the '49ers, and luckily pitched his tent in Santa Clara County.

He learned the business of an undertaker and in 1888 established himself in San Jose, attracted to the city on account of its
promising future; he is now the oldest undertaker in Santa Clara County. When he was incapacitated from participating so actively as before, his devoted wife took hold of the helm; and in 1909 they built their present attractive residence funeral parlors, a quiet, dignified place of real attraction, modernized in every way, and fortunate in a first-class automobile equipment. The extent of their business demands the steady employment of several graduate embalmers, each of whom takes that interest and pride in all that is done that it is next to impossible for the patron to be disappointed in respect to the smallest detail.

At San Francisco, on Christmas Day, 1880 Mr. Ward was married to Miss Mary A. Sheridan, the daughter of Patrick and Bridget (Maloney) Sheridan, who came out to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama in the early spring of 1863 and made their home in San Jose the  remainder of their lives, highly esteemed by all who knew them. Mary Sheridan was born in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois, accompanying her parents to San Jose when she was a little child, so she is to all
intents and purposes a native daughter, as this is the scene of her first recollections. She grew up and received a good education at Notre Dame Convent and the San Jose State Normal School, thus laying the foundation of the knowledge that stood her in such good stead when it became necessary for her to assume the management of their business, a matter of which Mrs. Ward is very thankful to her parents that they saw to her educational preparation with so much care.
Five children and six grandchildren have sprung from this fortunate union of Mr. and Mrs. Ward. The first born was Burton L. Ward, who is a graduate embalmer and is ably assisting in the conduct of the business; Gertrude is the wife of D. W. Gray, of San Jose; Mabel has become Mrs. Presley Brown, of San Francisco; Rita is married and is now Mrs. C. G. Sheffield and resides with her husband in New York City, while the youngest child is Mary W. Marquart of San Jose.

After they had established the present business in 1888 Mr. and Mrs. Ward saw the great need of a woman embalmer, so Mrs. Ward began the study and in due time took a course in the Clark's School of Embalming in San Francisco , from which she was graduated in 1890, and since then she has had charge of that department of the business. Thus she is the first woman graduate embalmer in the state. This in connection with experience in conducting the affairs of the business came in very fortunate when Mr. Ward became an invalid and she immediately assumed charge of the business, which has grown very satisfactorily and they have become very successful. To accomplish this has required much hard work and close application on the part of Mrs. Ward, for at the same time she had to see to the rearing and educating of her children. In the conduct of their large business Mrs. Ward is ably assisted by her son-in-law, D. W. Gray, and her son, Burton L. Ward, both graduate embalmers and experienced undertakers who do the conducting of the funerals, which leaves her free to devote nearly all of her time to the business end. And being endowed by nature with much native ability and business acumen, her management has been a decided success.

Mr. and Mrs. Ward are communicants of St. Joseph's Church. Fraternally Mr. Ward is a member of the Fraternal Aid and the Foresters of America, and they are members of the California State Funeral Directors Association. Cultured and refined, Mrs. Ward is a woman of pleasing personality, who is prominent in civic and social circles, being a past president of Institute No. 32 Young Ladies Institute and past Pocahontas of Minequa Council of the Order of Pocahontas, and a member of Ladies of Maccabees.

It is to men and women of the type of Mr. and Mrs. Ward that San Jose and Santa Clara County today owe much of their present development, for without their optimism and faith in their future greatness, as well as their willingness to put their shoulders to the wheel, we would not have such a large and prosperous city and county. They have always shown their enterprise and public spirit by giving of their times and means to all worthy movements that have for their aim the upbuilding of the count and enhancing they comfort and happiness of the people, and their example is well worthy of emulation.

Transcribed by Linda Gretty, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 458