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Saturday, July 12, 2014

1956 Tragedy : Four family members die in plane crash

Section H Lot 24  Ward family of four, all deceased 2 January 1956

I have taken photos of over 10,000 graves for the Bronswood Cemetery here in Oak Brook, Illinois.  Today I was adding grave photos to the FindaGrave website ( ) for this cemetery.  When I came upon a family of four, I paused and looked at my notes that I had transcribed from the original burial log, which is held in the cemetery office in a vault.  The owners of the cemetery had allowed myself and my assistants to view these logs in the past, and we made careful notes from what we could glean from the records.

The Ward family, buried in Section H Lot 24, holds the remains of six persons.  Four of them passed on the same day....January 2, 1956.

Bronswood Cemetery Burial Index, Oak Brook Historical Society website,

  As I gazed at my notes, I read "family plane crash".  My curiosity got the best of me.  I finished adding photos for the burials of Section H, then headed on-line to discover what I could about this unfortunate family disaster.

I use several on-line websites to discover old newspaper articles.  My most profitable search came from My Heritage ( ),  There I found several articles about this family and the terrible incident that took their lives.  Newspapers from across the nation had reported on this tragedy.
Rockford Morning Star, Rockford, IL, 1956 Jan 3, page 1

Racine Journal Times, Racine, WI, 1956 Jan 3, page 1

The four members of the Ward family were visiting relatives in  St. Louis, Missouri, during the holiday season.  They were in a small Cessna 170, headed back to the Chicago suburbs, when it crashed in a farm field before the family could reach their home destination.  Reports reveal that the fog was thick that day.  Paul Ward, his wife Harriet and daughters Barbara and Sharon were killed when the plane burst into flames after crashing into a field.

Such is a sad story to come upon when recording the burial records in a cemetery.  To know that this family was killed after visiting relatives during the holiday season is very sad.  They are laid to rest with two other family members,  Ruby and Orie Ward.  Both passed away within 8 to 9 years of their younger relatives.  It must have been a very sad day for them to bury four of their family members on the same day in the dead of winter in 1956. Who could have predicted this sorrowful end?

The next time I get a chance to visit Bronswood Cemetery, I'll be sure to stop by the  Ward family plot and say hello to the entire family.  It was a pleasure to take time to learn about their story, even though it was a tragic end for them.  To leave this earth together must have been something that they did not expect.

Ward Family stone, Bronswood Cemetery, Oak Brook, IL

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