Contributed by Vicky Ballmes and Kimberly Coley
Mort Ward (Rev. Canon S. Mortimer Ward, IV), a 34-year Red Cross volunteer and foundational figure in Disaster Spiritual Care, passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones on July 28, 2022.
Mort served the Red Cross in many roles including as an instructor, member of Disaster Health Services and the Disaster Action Team, Disaster Mental Health Lead, Service to the Armed Forces Chapter Lead, and Disaster Spiritual Care Regional Lead.
According to Tim Serban, National Disaster Spiritual Care (DSC) Lead and Pacific Division Advisor, Mort officially became the first Disaster Spiritual Care volunteer in 2015 when the team was fully integrated into the American Red Cross. With Mort’s support, the program has flourished and there are now over 600 volunteers on the DSC team nationwide.
Mort recently served as the Pacific Division DSC Liaison, where he brought his incredible gifts of hospitality to welcome all the new volunteers who joined the team. “Personally, I found Mort to be a wisdom teacher and friend,” Serban commented. “He cared deeply about serving others and I will miss his kind and compassionate words whenever I needed it most. We will miss him deeply!”
Mort was a champion for self-care. In the Central California Region, Mort is remembered in particular as being a caretaker of the people behind the mission. He served as a conduit to the Red Cross, always making a point to sit down with new volunteers and staff to welcome them. In countless disaster responses, Mort took it upon himself to check in individually with disaster relief operation staff. He would invite people to go for a walk with him or step into another room to chat, and always had a bottle of water or piece of chocolate to hand them.
This care for our volunteer and staff well-being led Mort to create the Voices from Home program, where Disaster Spiritual Care volunteers call those on deployment to check in with them and give them the opportunity to hear from a friendly ‘voice from home.’
Mort was instrumental in creating the final design of the national Disaster Spiritual Care pin, and he lived its message of “Inspiring Hope.” He was a member of our Red Cross family and left a profound impact on many. He is deeply missed.
Mort’s memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 17, at 1:00 p.m. at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, California, and is available via live stream for those that cannot attend.