Marguerite Ward has blown out many birthday candles in her 88 years.
But her birthday wish at a lunch at Cheddars dropped the jaws of her stepdaughter, Jo Rice and Rice’s husband Harry, Madison County’s former Magistrate Judge.
This wasn’t a wish for a book, or a quilt or flowers. No, the Hampton House resident in Colbert wanted to feel the roar of the engine and the wind on her face. She wanted to ride on the back of a motorcycle.
Harry and Jo laughed and looked at each other: “Scott,” they said.
That birthday wish was going to come true.
And so former Madison County Sheriff’s Office investigator Scott Pulliam, who now works with his brother operating a tree service, drove up to the Hampton House on his 2002 Honda BTX 1800 Retro Custom Saturday, June 20, with Ward waiting in a pants suit, blazer, leather gloves and a beret. She was ready to ride.
Pulliam said she could ditch the gloves. It was pretty hot. She also swapped the beret for a helmet and was told to hold on tight.
And off they went.
“She didn’t move her hands the whole time,” said Pulliam. “We went up to Colbert and went around Shoal Creek and just made the big loop and she giggled like a school girl the whole time. She had a ball. And as soon as we got in sight of the Hampton House — and of course, Harry and Jo were standing out front — she started hollering ‘We did it, we did it!’”
Ward said the ride “went by very fast” and was “fun, definitely fun.”
“It was a wish come true,” she said.
Pulliam said the experience was as rewarding for him as it was for Ward.
“The personal satisfaction that I got from watching her face, it’s unmeasurable,” said Pulliam.
The former lawman said he rides with the American Legion Post 123 out of Lexington and that he and fellow members have talked about possibly repeating the experience with others.
“We’ve actually discussed maybe doing this on a more regular basis and trying to go to some of the other homes like this,” said Pulliam.
Ward sat in her spacious, wood-floored room at the refurbished Hampton House Monday, smiling as she recalled the ride. The house currently has 11 residents but is licensed for up to 20 people.
Jo Rice talked about what a wonderful cook her stepmother was. Marguerite was born in Germany. Her mother was French. Her father was a veterinarian for the German Army in WWI and he “expected all of his children to be gourmet cooks,” said Jo, laughing when she remembered a dog making off with one of Marguerite’s roasts. Marguerite was one of three children of Josef and Marie Louise Rupp. Her sister Antoinette, who worked at a geriatric hospital in Paris, is deceased. Her brother, Josef, lives in Paris and calls the Hampton House occasionally. Dana Moreland, director of the Hampton House, chuckled, saying that when an older man calls speaking French, they know they know that “oui, oui,” “yes, yes,” that phone needs to get to Marguerite’s room.
Marguerite worked for 28 years for the Mead Corporation as the secretary to the president of the company. She knows German, French and English and held a side job of translating The Scientific American Magazine from English into French. She met her husband, George Ward, who was in the U.S. Air Force, in Paris and the two made a life together in America. Ward passed away several years ago and Marguerite moved from Clarke County to the Hampton House about a year ago, where Jo and Harry frequently visit.
Marguerite enjoys reading, crossword puzzles and talking with the staff at the Hampton House, such as caregiver Arlean Butler, who discovered Monday that she and Marguerite had both been employed by the Mead Corporation.
“She’s a wonderful lady,” said Butler of Marguerite. “I’ve learned a lot from her and her experiences.”
Butler said the two enjoy walks and that despite having 20 years on her in age, Marguerite can “almost out walk me.”
When Marguerite was asked what her 89th birthday wish might be, Harry Rice jumps in — perhaps jumping out of an airplane?
Marguerite smiles “No,” and says she’ll have to think about it.
Jo Rice said she’s glad this birthday included a special memory made.
“That was totally off the wall,” said Jo, laughing about the motorcycle ride. “I’m glad she told us about it and that it was something we were able to do for her. She’s very precious to me.”