By: Charles ‘Skip’ Trafford
My cell phone’s Skype app starting ringing on May 17 almost as soon as I came out of my son’s graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy. I had a bad feeling as soon as it rang because my only Skype contacts were in Asia and it was 3AM there. I thought “Nothing good was going to come out of this call” as soon as I answered the phone.
A Chinese doctor was on the other end. “Your friend is dead. He died. I’m sorry”. I could hear hysterical sobbing in the background. I went numb. It was the second time in 2018 I lost my closest friend and both were young brilliant engineers in their 60s. Tom Barker in February and now Hardy Ward in May. “Lord ?” I thought; “Why did you bring them home so early?” I had just communicated with Hardy hours before and was going to “live stream” my son’s academy ceremony to him in Shenzhen China. Hardy was looking forward to it. Why did he leave us so soon? Only God knows…
I thought immediately of the verse in Don McLean’s classic song American Pie about the “day the music died”. In my mind’s eye, I thought about the three times the NAA/US Archer asked me to write an obituary; Earl Hoyt Jr in 2001 and Tom Barker and Hardy Ward in 2018. The day/week/month/year the “music died” in the archery world; Earl, Tom and now Hardy. Only Earl lived a long life; Tom and Hardy left us to live in the Lord’s House so young. It just wasn’t fair to those of us left behind. Perhaps heaven was short of brilliant engineers…
I’ve known Hardy – “H1 as he liked to be called when we chatted because my Hardy, H1s namesake, had to be “H2” so we knew who we were talking about – since 1969. I competed against him at the US Intercollegiate at ASU. It wasn’t much of a competition though; he ran away with the tournament making it a fight for second from the opening whistle. We didn’t speak much during the tournament: I was on a target next to him most of the shoot but I do remember how kind, gracious and athletic he was during throughout the two days. While the rest of us were fighting to conserve energy and stay in the zone, Hardy was unbelievably athletic – and many say handsome; he was often compared to Elvis – and when the rest of us walked down the length of the chain link fence to get to the area where we ate, Hardy effortlessly jumped over a 7’ fence like it was a speed bump in a parking lot. I remember being impressed even though I myself was a javelin thrower on the college varsity track team. He had it all: athleticism, brains, southern charm, looks. Oh, did I mention that perfect hair? Man, every girl at that tournament wanted to know him and every guy wanted to be him; he had it all. He had already won the national target at 16 and was about to win the FITA world target title in Valley Forge later that summer. The Olympics weren’t far off and he was the favorite early on along with his fellow army training partners, John Williams and Ed Eliason.
The next time we met was the following year during nationals in Oxford Ohio when we both were invited to a US Team barbecue at Doug Brother’s home in Cincinnati. I was driving down the freeway listening to music on my headphones when one car in our caravan pulled up alongside me and Hardy asked what I was listening to? “Three Dog Night”, I hollered. He asked if he could listen to it and I handed the headset out the window to him as we barreled down the road (yeah, we were crazy kids in those days!). He listened to the headset as we drove and then handed it back to me saying that was a fine headset and good music. Later on during the barbecue, we became instant old friends and that friendship took us 49 years and around the world.
That friendship first took me to Taiwan in the early 80s during my Christmas and New Years break to shoot with him at his Olympic training camp. It was there that I first met the Korean National Team and Coach Lee when they were training there in the warm winter weather when he was Taiwan’s Olympic Team Coach. It later brought me to live in Taiwan for many years to train with him during the 80s for the 88 Olympic Trials. It led me to work with Hardy as a “coach’s coach” at the Taiwan National Olympic Sports University where I taught future archery coaches how to coach and enjoy other aspects of archery including instinctive shooting, barebow, string walking, clout and even tag football and tossing a frisbee. Those were great years and watching Hardy connect with the Taiwanese and Koreans and how easily he learned the language, culture and habits was amazing to observe. They loved him and he loved them. His southern charm fit in perfectly with the Asian culture, regardless of nation.
I spoke to several Taiwanese archers during that time that told me they had witnessed Hardy shoot a 1367/1362 during a weekend double FITA back when we shot 144 arrows per day at 90/70/50/30. He shot that score in the very early 80s with X7s and it was witnessed by hundreds. He was always a tremendous 70 meter shooter and both Hardy and those who were there said he shot a 350 and a 351 each of the two days. He often told me years later that he competed before the time when a tournament was shot at 70m and the winner was often over by the end of 90m on the second day.
I often heard Hardy tell me and his students “Let your arrows do your talking!” When I spent the day in his hometown of Mt Pleasant Texas a few days ago with many of Hardy’s four brothers and sisters, Sonya told me “That was what dad always told Hardy”. When I met Sonya and Butch – two of Hardy’s four siblings and each of them gifted athletes and tennis players in their own right – we spent the day laughing and crying as we pored over the scrapbooks, photos and memorabilia Hardy’s parents and Butch kept over the years. One really hit me: it was written lovingly by his dad in 1965 before he won his first adult national target at 16 in Flagstaff. It predicted he would win the nationals, North American and world championships and cap it off with a gold medal in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. How prophetic! Only the Olympics evaded that prediction when he had to withdraw from the 72 Trials with bleeding broken blisters on his string hand. I was there when he told George Helwig he couldn’t continue: his “tidy whitey’s” and bow were splattered with blood (as were more than a few competitors) that final day.
Hardy founded several very successful companies after he left the Taiwan Olympic Team coach position. One was Waco Archery and the other was Spin Spot, a tennis company that used Hardy’s significant background in fiberglass and engineering to its best advantage. At one time, Waco made over 90% of the worlds metal archery components and products including sights, points, weights, stabilizers; you name it, if it was made of metal, Hardy made it. His main customer was Easton and in the early years, France’s Beman.
I would work each day and often nights with my own manufacturing job as well as coaching at the National Sports University and Chinese Culture University. During the evenings, I would meet Hardy at his office around 9PM for years and we would intermittently work (the USA was just waking up and Europe was just wrapping up) and discuss and solve the worlds (and archery) problems until well into the morning hours. Hardy would be on his drafting board and every so often reach up, grab his 48 pound bow and pull and hold it for a minute or two as we talked. At any given time, some of the most famous manufacturers in the world would call including Jim Easton, Earl or Ann Hoyt, Bob Rhode, Bob Kaufhold and Joe Johnston. I remember being there when someone called him to tell him Fred Bear had passed on and Hardy was very quiet that night: he knew Fred and considered him a fine man and a friend. We would often walk across the street in Taipei and grab a midnight pizza.
One night during the summer, while munching his favorite “smokehouse chicken pizza”, he casually said he had just found out he had made some money the previous year. I uttered “Really? Good money?” as I ate. He replied, “Yep, cleared well over a million US. Coulda told me $100K and I would have believed it. I’m just the head janitor and bottle washer at Waco. Don’t have time or interest in the financial end.” I about gagged on the slice I was eating. Hardy was about 38 at the time.
He also was the co-owner/founder in Spin Spot and it was one heck of a tennis company. Wilson approached Hardy and he was soon making the world’s supply of Prince oversized tennis rackets. He then worked on a carbon fiber rim for bicycles and after making a few, gave them out to some famous Iron Man contestants. One of his creations placed near the top of the Hawaiian Iron Man contest and the orders poured in. Unfortunately, Spin Spot had not anticipated (or protected its proprietary information) the success and they couldn’t keep up with the orders. It was a nice problem to have. Soon, Hoyt came knocking and Bob Rhode and Hardy moved an entire line of compound limbs to Spin Spot.
It was through Spin Spot that many Taiwanese workers learned of Hardy’s character and his creed of honor over self. One day when Spin Spot was at full stride, Hardy’s Taiwanese partner came in to Hardy’s office and sadly told Hardy he had speculated the company’s wealth away in Singapore and the company was bankrupt. “Frank” then shot himself the next day and left Hardy holding the bag. Hardy went ahead and closed the company down. He personally informed each employee the company was closing and then handed every single employee his own savings: many hundreds of thousands of dollars in accrued retirement and bonus pay as they filed out for the last time, passing by Hardy standing at the front gate before locking it when the last employee departed. The gracious move left Hardy nearly broke. Such was the honor and character of Hardy Stephen Ward.
Hardy possessed great humor too, some of it learned from fellow US team mates such as Al Mueller. Hardy told me that when the US team went to Holland in 67, he was practicing with Al as he shot one arrow after another into the gold at 90m. (Al was one of the finest shooters in the world during practice!). Suddenly there was a commotion in front of Hardy and a European ran off to find Marvin Kleinman; the team captain, NAA leader and a lawyer. The official ran up to Marvin and told him one of his archers was using an illegal rear sight and was pounding the center. Marvin asked him which archer. The official said he didn’t know his name but he had a bomb sight drawn on his glasses with a magic marker complete with tic marks etc. Marvin asked “Hmmm. And which eye was this bomb sight scribed on?” “The right one” was the reply. Marvin laughed and said “Oh, that would be Al Mueller. He is blind and has a right eye: he’s pulling your leg! He then went over to Al and Hardy and said “Al, why do you torture these people like this?” Al said “I dunno. It’s too good to pass up!” Hardy said he was laughing his butt off.
He also told me of a hunting trip in northern Michigan when he worked for Bear in Grayling. He and his boss were hunting together and decided to split up and work their way around a small hill. When Hardy came around to the other side, it was just in time to see his boss finish his business, zip up his pants and put his hood back over his head. Problem was that his “business” was in the hood and it plopped down on his head and ran down his cheeks. Hardy couldn’t contain himself rolling in the snow while his boss said “If you tell even one soul about this…” Of course, Hardy tried hard to keep it to himself but…
Another story involved Bob Rohde, Bob Kaufhold Sr., Hardy and myself during lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Oxford Ohio in 1988. The inside was full so we ate outside and there must have been a fly convention that day! While we were waiting for our food, Hardy swatted at a fly and nailed it. Bob told him “I’ll bet you can’t kill 25 straight flies without a miss!” Hardy said “Bob, I can kill 50 without a miss!”. The next thing I knew, they were betting a hundred dollar bill in front of Bob and I (to the benefit of everyone eating that day!). Well, Hardy proceeded to kill one fly after another with great concentration, calculation and meticulous precision. When he nailed the 50th and calmly told Bob “you lose”, Bob asked him how in the heck he did that? Hardy replied “A magician never reveals the secret to his tricks”. Later in the day, I asked him how in the world he did that. He told me, “Brother, don’t ever leave anything to chance including taking a bet on swatting flies. I just observed that all flies have delta wings and they have to move backward to take off. I aimed and clapped just in front of them instead of where they were perched and the rest was a matter of observation and execution.”
Hardy was also a man of deep conviction, honor and patriotism. He was a member of America’s finest in Arlington Cemetery (watch the documentary “The Unknowns” to understand Hardy’s military assignment in our nation’s most revered cemetery) and proudly served his country in ways many will never understand or comprehend. I always found Hardy to be one of the most patriotic men I had ever met and was proud that he was my four children’s godfather since all of them joined the Air Force and Naval Academies.
Hardy was there in Taiwan when I first met my wife of almost 30 years and he – along with my brother who has lived in Taiwan since 1977 – was the Best Man at my 1990 wedding in Taipei. He was there when I called him from Tucson and told him “Sorry; my first born was daughter Rachael. I’ll name the next one after you”. Two years later, I called him again from overseas and told him “Well, I used the letter H in your name for my daughter Heather!” When I called him again three years later, he said “Let me guess: another daughter?” “Yep” I replied. She is beautiful and we call her Miriam. Hardy laughed and told me I will never have a son: “Older dads have daughters not sons”. I told him our table held six and we were determined to fill it. Well at that point, a dear friend of ours – a doctor – who came to Taipei from Tucson for the wedding, told me “how to make a son”. About 10 months later when we were living in Budapest, I again called Hardy and told him we finally had a boy and we were calling him Hardy. Hardy Ward was over the moon on that since he did not have any children of his own.
Hardy followed each of our children as they grew up and spent almost a year with us in Shreveport while he was a finalist in the Head Coach position that Coach Lee ultimately won. He spent every day with them coaching them on our backyard 70m range and fished the bayou and worked on some projects in the office/cottage we built here. It was a wonderful summer and fall for my children as their godfather spent considerable time with them establishing their “whole form” during the early years before Coach Lee and his coaching team honed them over a ten year period at the OTC on the Junior Dream Team.
When each of them went off one by one to the US Air Force Academy and US Naval Academies, no one was prouder of their accomplishments and determination to serve their country than Hardy. He was their biggest fan. When H2 – as Hardy called my son – was accepted into the Air Force Academy where he currently plays football, H2 told us “I’m going to concentrate on academics, leadership and football from here on forward. I’m not bringing my bow. After I serve my country, I hope to play in the NFL.” (H2 had a 100 yard punt his first academy year and six over 70). There was no one more proud of this focus on God and country priorities than Hardy Ward. He told me “H2 has his head in the right place and I am so damned proud of that boy. I wish more teens realized how important it is to serve our country before serving themselves. Well done mom and dad!”.
When H2 got his Eagle last summer prior to heading off to the Academy, H1 and I were as proud as could be. Both Hardy and I were Eagles – as was my dad – and we warmly welcomed young Hardy into our own little Eagle Fraternity. Hardy’s dad was a senior scout executive and Hardy had been featured in Boys Life and many other publications that I had read in Scouting before I met him in 69. It meant a lot to both Hardy and I that H2 stepped up to the plate and earned his Eagle.
Hardy and I had many hundreds of emails, texts and “”sharings”” back and forth in the years since I last saw him in Shanghai. Virtually every day we communicated since 2006. I was in China on a business trip in early May when Hardy sent me a picture of him in a Shenzhen hospital, not far from Hong Kong. Hardy had moved there from Taiwan in 2017 so that he was closer to his work in Qingdao. He was a road warrior traveling frequently throughout China as well as attending archery trade shows in the US and doing archery seminars at Lancaster Archery or at Texas A&M. (He was totally dedicated to an engineering “turnaround” assignment for Samick” during the past few years while also teaching archers his “Hit Straight the Feeling” methodology to great shooting. He was also working on publishing a training manual. Hardy hated the word “practice”. He felt strongly you train, not practice.)
Shortly after I touched down in Beijing, my cell opened up to a picture of Hardy in a hospital bed in Shenzhen. He explained to me that while golfing for several hours – his passion after all things archery – he suddenly sat down and collapsed explaining “I knew I was in trouble Skip”. From then on and through the following 10 days, he and I exchanged texts constantly as he confidently fought back from what he later admitted was a heart attack. Nothing in our texts revealed any real worry; after all, Hardy was perceived to be as fit as a fiddle. A bull of a man, stronger than an ox; a guy who his brother Butch said physically wrangled an engine out of a car in the 60s by himself to the amazement of his little brother and dad. Hardy and I remained in constant touch, even at 3 AM when he couldn’t sleep and wished there was a coffee shop somewhere near the nurses station. We discussed every world event in the news especially Korea and when I asked him if he remembered the book “The Mouse That Roared”? He said he never read it. (Great book about a tiny bankrupt country of archers and grape growers that declares war on the US, attacks a NY police station, immediately surrenders and then expects the US to rebuild their country as was done with Japan and Germany under the Marshall Plan). I then proceeded to send him hundreds of pages of screen shots of the book for him to read while he laid in bed, much to his delight and amusement.
As soon as I returned to the US, I attended a ceremony on May 17 at the Air Force Academy where “H2” was graduating from his first year. The plan was for me to “live stream” the ceremony to “H1” from my seat. This was early afternoon at the Air Force Academy and early in the morning after midnight in China. However, I couldn’t get a response from H1 which was strange because he and I were constantly in touch while he was in the hospital.
The last message I had from Hardy was just before we went into the ceremony. H1 said “Salute the stars. Hardy needs connections”. LTG Silveria – the Academy Superintendent – spent a significant amount of time talking with H1 and my wife and I during a reception the day before: H1 was consciously talking about the 3 stars on LTG Silveria’s shoulders, but perhaps there was a more subliminal meaning to the last message I received from Hardy. I believe the latter.
Hardy Ward was an amazing man; absolutely amazing. Hardy was without a doubt America’s most talented all round archer. His experience touched on every point of the archery compass. He reminds me of the proverbial blind men and the elephant. He had Jay’s turn-on-a-dime humor to the X zone, Ed’s never-say-die competitiveness, Darrel’s no nonsense focus on success, Earl’s bowyer & engineering knowledge, Rob’s business savvy, Ann’s determination, Vic’s competitive longevity, Dick’s coaching eye, Tom’s float all boats determination and Don’s attention to detail.
My family and I loved Hardy like the brother and godfather he was to my wife and I and our four kids. The global archery community lost a huge pioneer with his passing. My family and I feel strongly Hardy is now sharing many a story with all those great archery men and women we have lost over the years who touched and believed in Hardy and who he loved and believed in in return. The list of names he interacted with that left us earlier and to whom there is undoubtedly a place in heaven include Earl and Ann Hoyt, Tom Barker, Owen Jeffreys, Nancy Myrick, Fred Bear, Marvin Kleinman, Bob Rhode, Wilburn Wooten, Robert Kaufhold, Al Martin, George Helwig, Clayton Shenk and Joe Johnston, just to name a few.
Rob Kaufhold of Lancaster Archery Supply – a frequent host for his archery seminars and a dear friend – had this to say about Hardy; “Hardy Ward’s countless contributions to the target archery and field crossbow communities are unequaled. Hardy’s teaching of classic archery form to coaches in Asia from the 80’s to just weeks ago are the foundation of what the Korean and other Asian country’s technique was built upon. His knowledge, charisma and keen sense of humor will be missed by my family and thousands of other archers who were blessed to know him.”
God bless you my dear friend. I will see you again someday but until then, do what you do best. Teach those cherubs not only how to shoot straight but how to capture, “straight the feeling”.
PS Right now, Hardy’s remains are still in limbo in China. His family has started a Gofundme page to bring Hardy home. Please consider contributing to this noble cause. His family wants to bring him back to Texas with full military burial honors. To Donate: GoFundMe:Hardy Ward