What you have not seen is a lot of litter. That is largely thanks to Sheila Ward, the lady on the bike.
“I like to see it clean,” she stated. Since the construction of the bike trails, Ward, who lives on Cornelius with her husband Tom, has rediscovered her love of bike riding, which stems from her childhood, living on a farm outside Hagerstown in Wayne County, Ind. And for the last five or six years, she has combined that pastime with a habit she links to her farm upbringing.
“My father wanted boys but didn’t get any,” Ward said, laughing. Nevertheless, she and her older sister, Teene, did most of the work sons would have done. “You didn’t want my dad to see you doing nothing.”
Her father, who farmed three farms and worked in a factory, raised around 35 head of black Angus cattle, and every night after school she made seven trips — 14 bushels of corn — to feed them. In the summer, she also fed hogs.
Mornings in the summer would also be spent cutting corn out of bean fields, pulling weeds and clearing the fields of stones and stumps. “We blew stumps with dynamite … That was fun.” Perhaps not as much fun for Teene, six years older, who had to light the wick because she could run faster.
Ward also did a lot of painting of corn cribs and other buildings, and she still loves to paint.
That’s just the beginning of a long list of chores she did on a regular basis: “That kind of thing sticks with you,” said Ward. “My mom is 93 and she still works.”
In 1966, two days after graduating from high school, Ward got a job at the Dana plant in town. She worked at Dana for the next 32 years. It was there she met her husband, Tom, who was a foreman.
Since retiring in 1998, Sheila and Tom have enjoyed their house near the Syracuse Lake and Lake Wawasee; they love fishing for bass, crappie, bluegill and northern pike. But it wasn’t until the addition of the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails Ward rediscovered her love of bike-riding. “I didn’t feel safe until they put the trail in,” she commented.
And as for her clean-up regimen, “When I go to town I don’t want to see it full of trash. I can do something about it, and I do.” She concentrates on a half mile stretch of Cornelius Road in the morning before it gets hot or in the evening, creating “a clean road for people on their way to work.”
And sometimes she is rewarded for her efforts. Once she found a $20 bill. “I keep looking for that other $20,” she quipped. On another trip, she found someone’s paycheck and returned it to the business. Any license plates she finds she turns in to the police.
“I would so much urge other people to get out and clean our roadsides,” Ward offered. “A family can do it together.” After all, as her dad used to say, “Can’t can’t do nothing.”