In Memorium: Christian Scott Ward
December 18, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The people in your life matter, but some people matter more than others. For all of us, there are a handful of people who set the path of our lives as it twists and turns, who steer us toward our future and the people who are waiting for us there. Christian Ward was one such person in my life.
Although we did it 25 years apart, Christian and I both came from rural America to New York to become writers. Christian hired me straight out of college nearly 18 years ago to work with him at Columbia University. It was my very first professional job, and he taught me about office politics, how to be a professional, how to write better, and how to get away with being a wiseguy and not get fired. Knowing how little Columbia was paying me as an editor, he told me to try to get Columbia housing, which I did. And my roommate in that housing up on 125th Street had a best friend who had a younger sister who is now my wife and the mother of my children. His son, Justin, has been my IT manager since he was a teenager, and he is still to this day.
I liked working with Christian. He was warm and funny, and he would rather tell stories than work sometimes, which suited me just fine. But only a few months after he gave me my first job, he was given the task of firing me because of budget cuts that were brought on by a recession. He let me use the office as a base of operations to find a new job for as long as Columbia would allow it, and on my last day, instead of letting me get too down about it, he brought a six pack of Heineken and a delta kite to the office. We went up to the roof of the engineering building illegally, and we flew the kite with several thousand feet of string, drinking beer and talking about what I should do.
Given my technical background, he assured me that I would have no problem getting work as a writer. It took a few weeks, but I eventually landed a job writing newsletters in the computer business–essentially the same job I have had for almost two decades now. He was right about that. He was not right about the wind holding up, because it didn’t and the kite crashed, leaving the string running out across building tops on Broadway and all the way over to Riverside Park. We ran like teenagers being chased by the cops.
Even though I left Columbia, Christian and I remained friends, supporting each other over the years in good times and in bad. Beer was usually part of that support. That Heineken up on the roof at Columbia was probably the first decent beer I ever had, and it was also probably one of the reasons that Christian and I both started brewing beer as a hobby years later.
The reason we remained friends, despite a fairly large generational gap, is simple: We loved the same things, and these are presented in no particular order: nature, women, food, children, truth, beer and wine, intelligent conversation, and laughter.
I will miss him forever.