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July-August 2013

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In Memoriam: Charles “Charlie” B. Ward (1930–2013)

Charlie Ward is a classic example of a man who became interested in minerals as a teenager but spent the next forty years developing his career and raising a family, then had that interest rekindled and made it his second career. Born Charles Bruce Warhaftig in Newark, New Jersey, in May 1930, eight months into the Great Depression, Charlie was smart and physically robust. He graduated from Newark's Weequahic High School at age eighteen, having excelled in academics and athletics. His graduation present was a trip to Franklin and Sterling Hill, where a business partner of his father's was a mine supervisor. Charlie's interest in minerals, particularly fluorescent minerals, can be traced to this visit.

After high school, Charlie attended the University of Kansas on a football scholarship; he was a tough competitor both in the classroom and on the field and was proud of being the only Jew on the university's football team. (In his eighties he still boasted a lineman's physique.) After graduating from college with a BS in mechanical engineering and a BS and MS in finance, Charlie was drafted into the army, where his professional qualifications made him a major in the Army Accounting Corps. He served for three years, including time in Korea and a year in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, where he was attached to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC). By his own account he was the only member of his ABCC team without an MD or PhD.

After his military service, Charlie entered a career in finance and accounting; his lengthy résumé includes stints as chief financial officer (CFO) of Burco Industries and also Onan Generators (now a subsidiary of Cummins). Charlie the CFO was noted for his financial acumen and an independent streak, the latter displayed in the story of Charlie's showdown with Conrad Hilton, as told by Charlie's son Herschel. Onan supplied backup generators for Hilton hotels in the 1970s and early 1980s, but the Hilton company was notorious for late payments, often six to nine months late. Finally, Charlie said enough was enough and stopped shipping generators. Conrad himself called Charlie and screamed over the phone, “I am HILTON! You can't do this to me!” Charlie's response was, “Well, it's nice to meet you, but it doesn't matter if you are Hilton or Hoover or God Himself, you're a deadbeat. Pay your bills and you'll get your generators.” The next day a courier arrived with a cashier's check for payment in full.

Charlie's first wife was Sarah Sussman, an organic chemist who bore him a daughter and two sons: Fremah (born 1963), Paul (born 1968), and Herschel (born 1972). Charlie and Sarah were married for twenty-four years until her death from cancer in 1981; Charlie married twice more, with both marriages ending in divorce. At the time of Charlie's death in April 2013, he had two grandsons, Noah and Aaron. During Charlie's career as a CFO and accountant—he became a CPA in 1984—the family lived in seven different towns in Connecticut and two in New York State.

Charlie was re-introduced to minerals in 1988 at a rock shop in Breckenridge, Colorado. In typical Charlie mode, he began as an enthusiastic collector, and then focused on the business of minerals. In 1991, with his dad's help, Herschel started P&H Fluorescent Minerals. In 1994 it became Charles B. Ward Fluorescent Minerals, and under this name Charlie and Herschel kept the business active until Charlie's health declined in late 2012. As the business grew, Charlie moved from Norwalk, Connecticut, to Bakersville, North Carolina, a base from which he ran a widely advertised, Internet-based mail-order business, and went on the road as a dealer at numerous mineral shows, including those in Tucson, Denver, Springfield (Massachusetts), and Franklin (New Jersey). Charlie's genius extended to packing his van so efficiently with minerals, tables, ultraviolet lamps, and paraphernalia that it was chronically overloaded, and not infrequently it broke down en route.

Over the years, Charlie and Herschel made up starter kits for collectors and dealers, sold a large variety of books, and became dealers for many manufacturers of ultraviolet lamps, including Raytech, UVP, UV Systems, UV Tools, and Way Too Cool. As for minerals, Charlie and Herschel field-collected, bought collections, and developed a network of suppliers. Their specialty was Franklin and Sterling Hill minerals, but they developed an often-changing worldwide stock, and one of Charlie's “coups” was being the first to regularly import tugtupite and other unusual fluorescent minerals from the Ilimaussaq alkaline complex in southwest Greenland.

It is safe to say that during the twenty-some years that Charlie and Herschel were active presences among mineral dealers, nearly every fluorescent mineral collector in the United States bought from them. The C. B. Ward Fluorescent Minerals website offered a wide range of minerals for the beginner and intermediate collector, and at shows the Wards liked to present some real screamers (also known in the trade as killers or rump-kickers). One of these was what may have been the largest specimen containing hardystonite, clinohedrite, willemite, and calcite—a classic Franklin “four-color” piece that measured about 1 meter by 65 cm by 25 cm and was named Helga. Charlie and Herschel were also famous for their fluorescent spheres, creations that involved first locating very large lumps of promising rock, then locating one of the rare lapidary technicians capable of shaping, cutting, and polishing them. One such splendid example is a large sphere of Sterling Hill willemite and calcite in the Franklin Mineral Museum's 10-meter-long fluorescent display. Two more are in the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia: an 8-cm tugtupite sphere from Greenland, and a 45-cm “small planet” of fluorite, calcite, and willemite from the Purple Passion mine near Wickenburg, Arizona.

Charlie promoted the Fluorescent Mineral Society and held regional meetings for the group at his home in Norwalk. He also was very helpful to the Sterling Hill Mining Museum (in Ogdensburg, New Jersey) in its infancy. For example, Herschel's first “gig” as a mineral dealer was at the 1991 Burlington (Vermont) Show, where he sold freshly mined Sterling Hill wollastonite, barite, willemite, and calcite to raise money for the museum. Charlie's most important work there was helping make the museum financially stable. He did its taxes for several years and was proud of securing its nonprofit status. The museum's founders, Dick and Bob Hauck, valued Charlie's contributions highly and are planning a memorial to him on the property.

To those who knew him well, Charlie was a fiercely loyal friend. Perhaps more remarkable is that in our community of mineral collectors, which like every community prizes gossip and loves to dish the dirt on friends and enemies alike, Charlie simply would not bad-mouth anyone. Although he saw the flaws and peculiarities of his contemporaries clearly, he would not take sides or say anything negative about them. This quality reveals the essential and durable optimism of Charlie Ward, who was one of the more memorable personalities I have known, in or out of the mineral hobby.

Richard C. Bostwick has collected the fluorescent minerals of Franklin and Sterling Hill, New Jersey, since 1960 and is currently a volunteer at the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, the Franklin Mineral Museum, and the spring and fall mineral shows in Franklin. He is a member of the Fluorescent Mineral Society.

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