The funeral took place in the heart of Chicago, shutting down Michigan Avenue for several hours and giving the public a chance to share in the sorrow and take a beat to honor the respect and sacrifice of someone who died fighting a fire for the city.
Ward was celebrated Wednesday for his many specialized careers and hobbies. He was a devoted public servant for 26 years.
Ward died after battling a house fire on the Northwest Side. He had been hospitalized for 17 days and was unable to breathe on his own.
There was a walking procession on Michigan Avenue Wednesday morning. The Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Corps led and fire engines followed. One of them was draped in purple and black bunting and carried the casket. Ward's gear was positioned on the front of that truck.
New firefighters stood with flags in the streets, creating a corridor of honor for the procession. The bagpipe music filled Michigan Avenue as tourists and locals watched the casket, draped in the Chicago flag, moved inside Fourth Presbyterian Church with military precision.
Ward was remembered for his many interests, his adventurous spirit and his devotion to service.
"As he explored all of his passions, what I am most profoundly appreciative of is that he lived a life of service. Driven by his adventurous spirit, and his desire to serve the community, becoming a Chicago firefighter where he had the chance to use his intelligence, his talents and his skills for the greater good. He was selfless, courageous and deeply dedicated to the greatest city in the world, the City of Chicago," Mayor Brandon Johnson said.
Ward's family also spoke during the funeral service. His former wife, Corrine Walenda, talked about how he always had very physically demanding hobbies. He was glass-blowing artist, a scuba diver, a rescue diver. He even played underwater hockey. Ward had a trained respiratory system for all these interests, but in the end, it was his breathing that ultimately failed him.
Ward died on Aug. 28. He was 58 years old.
Walenda said that Ward loved the Gold Coast church where his funeral took place, saying he believed it represented community and it was what a Chicago church ought to be.
"His sacrifice reminds us of the dangerous our firefighters face daily and the profound dedication they bring to their noble calling," CFD Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said. "Today, we honor Kevin's memory by pledging ourselves to the values he held dear: bravery, selflessness and unwavering service to the City of Chicago. We owe it to him and to all those who have gone before us to carry on with that same legacy."
Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered flags to be flown at half-mast to honor Ward from sunrise Tuesday to sunset Wednesday.