The last family owned funeral home in Thurston County.

Woodlawn Funeral Home Obituaries

Mervin Lee Ward , Age: 87
March 08, 1937 - May 10, 2024

Mervin Lee Ward passed away peacefully surrounded by family on May 10, 2024 in Olympia, WA. In his 87 years on this earth, he worked hard, loved hard, and was a friend to many. His family connections and friendships were deep and strong. He was the family patriarch with a natural way of leading and guiding with wisdom, curiosity, and just the right words for any situation. His family sometimes described him as equal parts John Wayne and Clint Eastwood with some Johnny Cash sprinkled in. He had an unwavering commitment to his family, friendships, values, beliefs, the land, his country, and a pragmatic approach to life. Whether the conversation was light or difficult, he had such a unique way of communicating and always kept things said.

Mervin was born on March 8, 1937 to Mervin and Thelma (Jackson) Ward in Sumner, WA. He grew up with a dedication to hard work and learned to love the great outdoors through farming, hunting, and fishing. From a young age, Merv worked on his family’s farm on the Orting Highway in Sumner. He played football at Sumner High School and graduated in 1955. He married Dorothy Davidson in August, 1956 and they eventually moved to the Yelm Highway property to farm full time in Olympia. They had four children - Wes, Shelly, Wendy, and Angie.

Merv and his dad worked this second Ward Farms location on Yelm Highway in Olympia where they raised and sold the first certified virus-free strawberry plants in the state. Merv farmed alongside his brother-in-law Pete Van Lierop as they diversified to grow strawberries for cannery and u-pick, raspberries, corn, pumpkins, Christmas trees, carrots and other crops. The farm eventually became known as Ward Van Lierop Farms.

Merv married Kathy Robinson in March, 1975 in Olympia, WA. They had their son Matthew in 1977. This was a time in Merv’s life where his faith in God and participation in church became more important. Kathy came from a large family and his title of Uncle Mervin grew with the addition of many more nieces and nephews. When Kathy’s sister Linda and her husband Cork died suddenly in 1978, Merv and Kathy welcomed their children Robb, Jon, and Kelly to live with them on the farm.

Merv met Charleen Spanich in 1983 and they married in 1990. With this marriage he gained another son Jason. Char’s family including her parents Lillian and Leonard, sister Nancy and her husband Marty, aunts and uncles, and many cousins became an important part of Merv’s family. With Char’s influence and dedication to Ward Farms, they farmed side by side. Merv’s pride in this working partnership was evident as he often told friends of her moving wheel lines, driving tractors and diggers, and managing work crews. Together they owned and operated Ward Farms until their retirement. In their last evolution of farming in 1987, they planted 20 acres of sod which eventually launched Country Green Turf Farms, owned by Merv’s nephew Jeff Van Lierop. Merv and Char loved to cook and entertain friends and family at their home. They often threw parties for 15 or 150 people. Their Christmas parties were always one of the biggest highlights of the season.

Merv spent most of his waking hours outside where he was farming, hunting, or fishing, almost always with one of his many dogs by his side. He loved to travel and fish and hunt the rivers, lakes, and deep woods of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Canada, and beyond. His boats were his second home and he often led fishing trips out into the Puget Sound, Alaska, and in more recent years, mainly out of his beloved Westport, his and Char’s home away from home. Those who were lucky enough to be on these trips can tell stories for days. And whether we were there or not, we always wanted to hear Merv’s unique way of telling those stories. Merv and Char always had a freezer full of meat and fish to share, and were often found in the kitchen together cooking, preparing, and sharing their favorite recipes. 

Merv followed in his dad’s footsteps by serving in farm organization leadership positions including the board of directors of the Western Farmers Association, the Washington State Farm Bureau, and as president of the Western Washington Horticulture Association. Merv was a member of the Evergreen and Tacoma Sportsmen’s Clubs where he won many trap shooting tournaments through the years. He volunteered with the Lacey Fire Department, was a member of Ducks Unlimited, served on the Thurston County Planning Commission, and was active in various grange activities and the Puyallup Elks Club.

Merv is survived by his wife Char, children Wes Ward of Spokane, Shelly (Steve) Kalenius of Olympia, Wendy Sullivan (Larry Jones) of Vinita, OK, Angie Ward (Mark Medalen) of Olympia, Matthew (Tara) Ward of Ferndale, Robb (Elizabeth) Corbett of Pendleton, OR, Jon (Lisa) Corbett of Bend, OR, Kelly (Randy) Barkhurst of Steilacoom, sister Lynn Van Lierop, 19 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents Mervin and Thelma and son Jason.
A celebration of Mervin’s life will be held on Saturday, June 1st, 2024 at 4pm at Ward Farms – 7725 Yelm Highway SE, Olympia, WA 98513. Contact Angie Ward at (360) 701-0049 with any questions.

The family suggests in lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Mervin Ward’s name to the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia, WA.


Additional Service: Celebration of Life
Location: Ward Farms
Address: 7725 Yelm Highway SE
City: Olympia
State: WA
Zip Code: 98513
Date of Service: June 01, 2024
Time of Service: 4pm
Additional Information: No Additional Information Added


Pete and Patricia van lierop May 16, 2024

Brother in law Olympia , Washington

Send all our love, lifting you up. Happy memories for a life lived to the fullest! Beautiful family. Much love to Char, your so special. Loving u Pete and Patricia Van Lierop

Zacharia Von Tropf May 16, 2024

Long time friends with Wes Ward Safety Harbor , Florida

I am so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine how hard this must be. Wes, if you need anything brother just let me know. My sincere condolences.

Mayra Velilla-Ryte May 17, 2024

Friend to Angie Ward and family Olympia , Washington

I never had the privilege of meeting Mervin, but I knew of him through many of his family members. My heart aches for the family as you all grieve the loss of the patriarch of the Ward clan. My thoughts and prayers are with you. May God's peace comfort you keep you. 🙏

Carl Samuels May 28, 2024

A good friend of his son Wes Seaside , Oregon

I only met Mervin once of twice when out at the farm or a family events but what I remember from his was that he was full of life and driven and love that salmon picture of him. Looking forward to seeing his kids and family again.

Andy Vance June 05, 2024

Friend of family Graham , Washington

Angie my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. Andy

Views: 0