I have been thinking about writing this for quite some time, but have struggled with when exactly to do it. Veteran’s Day? Memorial Day? On his birthday? On the anniversary of his passing?
I finally settled on Independence Day. The reasoning: the 4th of July is a patriotic holiday that carries undertones of celebration and happiness. I can’t think of a better day to pay tribute to the man affectionately known as “Happy Harold.”
Harold Ward was my a grandpa. He was a character, and I mean that in the most endearing manner. He was always happy, thus the nickname. Thinking back to my earliest memories I can never recall him raising his voice in anger. He always seemed to tackle even the most difficult of situations with a one-liner or a joke, always accompanied with that sly, half-smile of his. To call him a gentle man would be an understatement.
I’m not going to bore you with a big long write-up about his past, or our past together. If you are interested, just ask me sometime, and I will be happy to share stories over a beer. No, the purpose here is to share with you his one true passion beyond his family…Veterans.
“Happy Harold” was a true champion for those who have served our country. He was a Veteran himself. He was only 17 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, officially bringing the United States into World War II. Despite not being old enough to enlist on his own, he was able to convince his father, a Veteran of the first World War, to write a letter allowing him to serve. He reported for duty on December 26, 1941.
In the years following his service he became a strong advocate for Veterans and current active duty military personnel. Whether it was through the VFW, American Legion or some other organization…if there was an event to raise money for Veterans, he was there, often spearheading the efforts.
He always “dressed to the nines,” wore an American flag pin and, in his later years…that hat. “Happy Harold” and his hat became quite the fixture in the streets of downtown Anchorage, Alaska. He was constantly asked about it, and having never met a stranger, he would gladly strike up a conversation about why he wore the hat and what it meant to him.
True story: he once crashed a bikini contest in a downtown bar and managed to work his way onto the stage to give a monologue on Veterans. The crowd loved it! “Happy Harold,” the 80-something-year-old-man who could tear a room full of beer-drinking-testotorone-fueled-Harley-riding men away from a bikini contest on a Friday night to share his thoughts…and then get a standing ovation!
He was a character.
I share the following video of Happy Harold that was put together by a young lady named Rebekah Tempel, a young college student who met my grandfather in his later years and graciously put together this memory for his family upon his passing.
“Happy Harold” Ward was called home in August of 2013. I miss him…and I proudly display “that hat” in my office. I celebrate Veterans this 4th of July in honor of my grandpa…
-Sacha Sanguinetti, General Manager of Rocking M Media