By Brandon B. QuinnOn an otherwise rainy morning on Saturday, the sun broke out just in time for the Sag Harbor windmill to be officially dedicated to John A. Ward, the man who spearheaded its construction 47 years earlier.
As a lifelong resident of the Village of Sag Harbor, Mr. Ward wore many hats.
At one time or another, Mr. Ward was a mayor, fire chief, and village trustee. He was the commodore of the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, the co-founder of the Whaler’s Festival, a village police officer, a friend to many in the village and a World War II veteran.
“There aren’t many things he didn’t do. If he wanted things done, he’d do it himself,” said his sister, Margaret Ward Toole, who now works inside the windmill greeting center.
Ms. Toole described how her brother built the windmill in 1966—completely out of wood recycled from old ships—to replicate the one built in 1760, which stood 50 feet to the west of the current site.
Besides a renovation and re-shingling this past winter, the windmill stands as it did when it was first built.
“My father would love this testament to him, he’d be honored,” said Brenda Ward Ploeger, who was given a copy of the deed to the windmill by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman during the ceremony. “He’s smiling ear to ear up there with a scotch in his hand, that’s why the sun is out now.”
About 125 people came out to honor Mr. Ward, who passed away at the age of 90 in March, and to pass along their stories of the man who “still has his fingerprints all over every inch of this village,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. called the dedication well-deserved, and said, “In the ’60s, when John was mayor, you knew more people and you knew them better, and we all knew John like family.”
Mr. Ward, who had three children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, served as part of the Sag Harbor Fire Department for 72 years, making him one of the longest tenured New York firefighters in history.
“My father used to say that he went in [the fire department] even younger than 18, but they didn’t keep records back then so they only gave him up until his 18th birthday,” said Ms. Ploeger, retelling one of her father’s old jokes.