May 10, 1969 to May 30, 2022
Jeffrey “Jeff” Scott Ward was born in Yakima, Washington, on May 10, 1969, the first of three children (followed by sisters, Julie and Jessica, and later brother, Robby).
Jeff’s parents, Judy and Jerry, were teachers and moved to Farmington, Maine, in 1974 where he first mastered what would become two of his favorite past times, hunting and fishing; he also enjoyed whitewater canoeing on the Allagash River. The family returned to Yakima in 1979. Jeff lived in the gym and excelled in youth sports, playing grid kids football, basketball and baseball. He was an outstanding little league pitcher, having mastered throwing the curve ball by age 12. His mother hailed from St. Louis and he quickly became a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. His love for golf also started then by hitting balls around the yard then playing in tournaments with his dad by age 10.
In 1985, Jeff moved to Mancos, Colorado to live with his aunt and uncle, Cheryl and Wes Sheek, at their cattle ranch. Those were among the happiest years of his life, being raised by the Godly, loving couple he would forever call “my folks.” He also gained four “brothers,” the Sheek sons: Lee, Jeremy, Cody and Colt. The brotherhood that developed would last into his adult life, where he still took time to bond with and take part in each of their lives. He quickly adapted to his new high school and participated in football, basketball and track, excelling at all three and regularly making local sports page headlines.
Jeff’s love of becoming a cowboy, learning how to work with horses and cows, as well as hunting and fishing became his passion and lifestyle. He worked at two different dude ranches in Colorado during and after his college years – there he learned to cook for a crowd over an open fire. Grilling became a hobby he loved. His love for the ranch never diminished. That is where he first learned to interact with all kinds of people.
After graduation from Mancos High School in 1987, he returned to Yakima Valley College on a basketball scholarship. In 1989, he transferred to Mankato State University in Minnesota where he earned a B.S. in Political Science and Government.
Following college, he went on to earn an M.S. in environmental resource management from Arizona State University in 1995. Following graduation, he moved to Athens, Georgia, where he worked as a field engineer, siting and permitting construction developments to comply with environmental and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rules and regulations.
Having always been intrigued by the power of the written and spoken word, he entered law school. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law in 2002. There he would excel as a member of Moot Court Team – he was Best Oralist at the National Moot Court Competition and was Best Oralist and Best Brief in the Intrastate Moot Court Competition. At UGA, he became a loyal Dawgs fan and was overjoyed to be at the game in 2022 when his beloved Bulldogs won their first National Championship in 40 years.
After graduating from law school, he joined Gilbert Harrell Summerford & Martin in Brunswick. There he worked alongside lawyers he considered to be some of Georgia’s brightest legal minds, and he treasured the mentorships and friendships that evolved. His mentors included Judge Wallace Harrell, U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Wood and Mark Johnson.
Jeff lived on St. Simon’s Island, where he was very involved in the community, even graduating from Leadership Glynn (County). He especially loved coaching little league and otherwise doting on his children, Bennett and Beth Anne. Mobley would later join her siblings and she relished everything her Daddy did – basketball, golfing, fishing and shooting air rifles.
In 2012, Jeff moved to Drew Eckl & Farnham, serving as managing partner of the firm’s Brunswick office. He was an accomplished civil defense litigator and chalked up many victories at trial. He was regional counsel for Walmart Pharmaceutical, managing every lawsuit filed in the Southeast.
Jeff was a dedicated member of the State Bar of Georgia, donating his time in a variety of roles: Board of Governors, Brunswick Circuit Rep; State Disciplinary Board Review Panel, Member and Chair; Advisory Committee on Legislation; Bench & Bar Committee; and the Commission on Continuing Lawyer Competency, Member and Chair-Elect. He was also a proud member of the Old Warhorse Lawyers Club and enjoyed being a part of the Judicial Invitational Golf Tournament.
In 2010, he was elected to the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association (GDLA) Board of Directors. He had no idea how that would change his life, but his soulmate awaited him there. He was one of the most dedicated volunteers, serving as Amicus Committee Chair and three years as Editor-in-Chief of GDLA’s magazine, Georgia Defense Lawyer. He climbed the leadership ladder, eventually serving as President from 2020-2021.
In late 2018, GDLA’s Executive Director Jennifer Davis and Jeff began dating. By Labor Day that year, they had bought a house in Savannah together; they got engaged in January 2019 and married on August 31, 2019 at The Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah surrounded by family and friends. They loved life on the marsh in Savannah, where Jeff especially relished golfing at the Savannah Golf Club. They also bought a house at Lake Oconee and spent many days boating, fishing and catching rays.
Jeff found his career niche when he joined Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services full-time in April 2021. He had a passion for helping people and was regularly sought out by both plaintiff’s and defense attorneys to settle difficult disputes. He even received thank you notes from plaintiffs themselves. Miles elevated him to Senior Neutral after a few short months; he was truly born to mediate. Not surprisingly, he was inducted into the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals.
Jeff passed away following an accident on Memorial Day, May 30, after playing in a member-guest golf tournament in Albany and enjoying the company of his wife and dear friends. No doubt he’s birdied every hole on that heavenly course.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Jennifer Davis Ward, and his children, Bennett Scott Ward (Lexi), Elizabeth Anne Ward and Mobley Grace Ward – they were his pride and joy. Also surviving are his parents, Judy Burch and Jerry Ward (Lynn); siblings Julie Osborne (Andy), Jessica Ward and Robert Burch (Harmony), as well as nieces and nephews, Jordan Osborne, Erin Osborne, Luke Osborne, and Ashton Fix-Brinson. Also surviving is his Colorado family: Aunt Cheryl Sheek, Uncle Wes Sheek, cousins Lee Sheek (Stephanie), Jeremy Sheek, Cody Sheek and Colt Sheek (Mikaela Spalding), Liberty Sheek and Talon Sheek. Jeff has numerous other aunts, uncles and cousins scattered across the U.S, as well as countless friends. He touched many lives. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Dewey and Irma Scott Ward, and Herbert and Ida Hughes.
Jeff’s memorial service will be held June 16 at 1 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church at Frederica. A private family memorial will be held on June 22 at the Sheek Family Ranch in Mancos, Colorado.
If you wish to remember Jeff, in lieu of flowers, please donate to the Jere W. Morehead Moot Court Fund at UGA Law School here. Or, mail your check payable to UGA Foundation, memo line – in memory of Jeff Ward to: School of Law / Attn: Kate O’Reilly / University of Georgia / 225 Herty Dr. Athens, GA 30602. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Gamble Funeral Services, Savannah.