Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Pinellas

Man who died in Gulfport waters lived modestly, cared for autistic son

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the death of Lenord Ward, who they found dead in the water by a boat crash
Friends of Lenord Ward posted a GoFundMe after he was found dead in the water on Feb 3 [GoFundMe]
Friends of Lenord Ward posted a GoFundMe after he was found dead in the water on Feb 3 [GoFundMe]
Published Feb. 12
Updated Feb. 12

Every week, Paul Sarsten met up with his friend Lenord Ward for drinks, food and good company.

Ward, who dedicated nearly all his time to caring for an adult son who has autism, always welcomed the small break, Sarsten said. Ward would dock his boat at Gulfport’s downtown dinghy dock and walk over to meet his friend of 20 years.

On Feb. 3, Ward didn’t show up. He didn’t pick up his phone, but Sarsten wasn’t worried. Living on the water, phones fall in from time to time.

The next morning he got the call. Ward, 77, had been found dead in the waters off Gulfport about 12:30 p.m. the day of their scheduled meeting.

Sarsten said he suspects Ward was hit by a power boat and wants to have homeowners nearby check their security footage.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating the death, said Ward was found dead near the scene of a boating crash, but they are still trying to determine whether the crash caused his death. One of the boats in the crash belonged to Ward, they said. The investigation is ongoing.

Friends say Ward’s son is now being cared for by other family members.

“I really hope that somebody didn't run him down and then run away from it knowing that he was hurt,” Sarsten said. “I really would hope that that's not the case.”

Sarsten and Ward met at the Maximo Marina years ago. Ward lived off his sailboat with his son, Ian, whom he cared for.

A group at the dock would call themselves the Orphan Club. Every Thanksgiving they’d meet and share food — Ward always brought a queso dip, Sarsten said.

“He was the kindest person I ever knew,” Sarsten said. “He never complained about his life.”

Robert Rodine, who also used to dock at Maximo Marina, said Ward had been trained as a dental technician but because of the demands of caring for his son was never able to hold down a consistent job. Instead he did a variety of small jobs for different dentists repairing dentures.

He lived aboard a boat because he had to. When Maximo Marina raised their rates, he had to move. He couldn’t go on trips around the state with his friends because he couldn’t leave his son alone for that long.

Friends of Ward have set up a GoFundMe to raise money for his burial expenses. On the page, Sarsten’s wife wrote that Ward and his son lived out in the middle of Boca Ciega Bay because they couldn’t afford even marina bills. If a storm came, they’d sleep in a small storage unit Ward rented.

“He could easily have sat around and bemoaned his difficult circumstances but he never did,” Rodine said.

Instead, he said Ward was grateful for whatever life brought him and was always selfless.

“Lenord was the first one to greet you when you showed up at the dock and the first one to offer you a helping hand if he thought you needed it,” Rodine said.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor answer questions during a meeting of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club Friday.
  2. Law enforcement officers, Pinellas sheriff's deputies and troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol, whose patrol car is pictured above, will be in a wolf pack looking for impaired driver this week. (Sgt. Steve Gaskins, Florida Highway Patrol)
  3. A "for sale" sign beckons Friday along Sixth Avenue N in the Kenwood area of St. Petersburg.
  4. AMIkids in Pinellas Park has been shut down after two staffers were arrested in connection with the injury and neglect of a 12-year-old student.
  5. Death row inmate James Dailey, left, awaits execution for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio in Pinellas County. His co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, now says he alone killed the girl. A judge wants to hear his testimony at a March 5 hearing.
  6. Jarvis Delon West was arrested for child neglect after failing to report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police
  7. New Orleans-based Dat Dog offers exotic sausages like alligator, duck and crawfish, along with multiple vegan options and more than 30 toppings. The chain is seeking franchisees to bring a location to Tampa Bay.
  8. Shirley Elizabeth Rayner, 52, of Tarpon Springs, is facing a charge of elderly exploitation. Deputies say she forged or altered checks belonging to a 97-year-old woman she was hired to help.
  9. Jonathan W. Connors, 32, told a deputy he was “high as f---” after he was pulled over in North Redington Beach, arrest reports state. He faces multiple charges, including his fourth DUI.
  10. Booking photo of Gerardo Javier Garcia, 27, who is facing charges of child neglect, fleeing police and driving without a license.
  11. The candidates running for Clearwater City Council Seat 2 are (left to right): Mark Bunker, Michael "Mike" Mannino, Bruce Rector, Eliseo Santana Jr. and Lina Teixeira.
  12. The candidates running for Clearwater City Council Seat 3 are (left to right) Kathleen Beckman, Robert "Dr. Bob" Cundiff, Bud Elias and Scott Thomas.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement