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Ward's later years

Chicago landscape in winter
Chicago landscape in winter
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

With the help of his family and friends in Genesco, New York, Ferdinand De Wilton Ward, Jr. received a second chance after he completed his prison term. They helped him find a good job in the county clerk’s office. He also earned money in carpentry and furniture refinishing. He was allowed to live at the parsonage.

But, the idea of acquiring wealth over a lifetime didn’t appeal to him. He wanted immediate wealth. After ten years with the county clerk’s office, it was discovered that he pocketed fire insurance payments. He was given the opportunity to repay what he had stolen. He needed $1,000 quickly, or he would return to prison. He didn’t have the money.

Ward’s ten year old son Clarence lived with an aunt, so Ward decided he would obtain custody of the boy and use Clarence’s inheritance to pay the debt. That plan didn’t work quickly enough so he decided to kidnap Clarence and hold him for ransom from his first wife’s prominent family. He hired two private detectives who abducted and roughed up the boy. They were apprehended in a wild carriage chase.

Fortunately for Ward, his son was a forgiving, generous lad. Clarence agreed to give the $1,000 to his father from his trust fund. Ward left Genesco and moved to Staten Island. He resided there with his second wife’s family.

In his last years, Ward lived in a boarding house. His son Clarence provided him with a weekly allowance of $20. Clarence, an Oberlin College professor, supported his father from his small, paycheck. Ferdinand De Wilton Ward, Jr. died at the boarding house in 1925 at the age of 74 or 75. His loyal, devoted son paid his funeral expenses.

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