Ford City woman maintains serenity

| Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Serenity — St. Francis of Assissi prayed for it and Jerry Seinfeld wanted it on demand — Serenity, now! This state of being tranquil and untroubled, often seems to be in short supply worldwide.

There are those special people who are able to live in the chaotic world that we know and remain serene. Mrs. Alice Ware of Ford City is one of them.

Ware's 96-year journey to this point of her life has certainly not been without its ups, downs, bumps and detours. But, it is a life where rocky road was met with strong faith, wisdom and a keen sense of humor, all of which she obviously retains.

To see this longtime area resident is to encounter someone who appears and acts far more youthful than expected for her age. A recent hip surgery required a brief hospital and rehabilitation center stay, but the results are excellent, and the patient has a renewed desire to get moving.

Although she has logged many miles with travel that has taken her to such places as Egypt, England, Panama and Hawaii, Ware's world, for much of her life, was spent in Armstrong County.

Born in Kentucky, the second of four daughters of Wiley and Carrie (Cross) Andrews, Ware entered a world that had yet to grant many people basic rights that we enjoy today.

In 1916 America,voting was for men only. Women had not yet been given that right. Jim Crow laws made it difficult for men who were not Caucasians to vote and allowed for exclusion, segregation in public places.

Such practices were not confined to the South. Many businesses in this area, such as restaurants and taverns denied service to minorities as recently as the 1960s.

Ware's father and his three brothers were landowners in Todd County, Kentucky — farmers who successfully grew tobacco and other crops. Ware recalls the outcome of this success. “Someone from the ‘association' put limits on who they could sell to and how much they could charge. My dad was not the kind of person who could be told what to do.”

Leaving his brothers to continue on without him, Wiley Andrews got in his car and came to Ford City.

At that time many other black families from rural Kentucky and Tennessee were recruited by businesses, such as PPG, to relocate and fill positions in the booming industries of the Pittsburgh area. Most of these workers, unlike Wiley Andrews, were sharecroppers and did not own farms.

Companies would arrange their moves, which became known as “transportation.” Alice remembers her father saying, “I brought myself here. I didn't take any transportation.”

Andrews was hired by PPG and began the process of reuniting his family.

Housing options were limited for Kentucky transplants, with company houses concentrated in southern Ford City, what was referred to as the “Lower End,” the only viable choice for most.

Andrews was able to buy a farm in Bethel Township, where he, wife Carrie and daughters would make their home for many years.

Farming was still very much a way of life. “Everyone worked,” Alice says. Because we were on the farm, things didn't change that much for us (during the Great Depression). We always had something to eat,” says Ware, who admits, “I could milk a cow, but I drew the line at killing chickens.”

Life on the farm meant school in one room. Education was emphasized in Alice's family, as her father had opportunity for little formal schooling.

“My dad was only able to go to the fourth grade, but he could read blueprints. He was a jack-of-all-trades and master of all,” she says.

An eager student who enjoyed school, Ware says, “Everyone who came from Kentucky was held back and had to repeat the grade that they finished ( before moving).” Although required to repeat, Ware was later advanced. “I never did do fifth grade,” she explains.

Alice Andrews got her diploma and soon after got a new name when she married Altimore Ware. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in that same neighborhood that eventually was referred to as the Lower End. Seven children, four boys (Robert, Richard, Warren and Gary) and three girls (Mary Alice, Astrid and Susan) completed the family.

Daughter Mary Alice recalls, “Mom was always there and she was the disciplinarian. Dad was always working extra hours and shifts (as a crane operator at PPG), so he wasn't home a lot. If he got involved, you knew it was serious.”

The father that devoted so much of his life providing for his family was taken from them while most were very young. The youngest of the seven siblings, Susan was 9 years old when her father died.

“That was a big challenge for my mom,” Mary Alice says. “I don't know how she did it, raising five kids who were still at home and putting them through school, but, she did it.”

Some of those seven have reached the age of retirement, but all have prospered in such fields as medicine, teaching, technology and business.

Though she would later travel to distant places, Ware says, “I stayed in Ford City until all of my kids were grown.” Ford City certainly benefited from this decision.

Ware served her community in various ways. Active in local politics, she also was an integral part of Ford City's supervised playground program. It was her presence on the playground that will be remembered by many. Alice Ware became “Mama Ware' to countless local youth, many of whom still find their way to her house for a visit.

Mrs. Ware was a faithful, regular volunteer at Armstrong County Memorial Hospital for 40 years.

Alice was an active member of several Christian women's groups and held high offices in the Eastern Star, as well.

In 1989 Ware was inducted into the Ford City Hall of Fame.

Friends played an important role in her life, too. Always ready to fit in an appropriate witticism, Ware knows the importance of humor, too. During those years of raising families on little sleep, Ware and girlfiends were able to squeeze croquet into their schedules — with baby buggies on the sidelines.

Service to her church, however, took priority. A long-standing member of the Philips Chapel CME, until it's closure in 2006, Ware devoted much of her time and talent to her church. She was the church secretary for 50 years and also served continuously in other leadership roles, so much so that the bishop appointed Ware as a delegate to the church's worldwide convention in 2001 in England.

Ware would go to this religious conclave and would also fly to England again, as well as Cairo, and Cancun. Her favorite destination? “Hawaii,” she says.

Ware's children have also made travel a family experience by taking their mom to the Carribean island of St Martins for the past 25 years. Hip surgery interrupted this annual trip, but Ware gives every indication that she's not ready to throw in her beach towel.

And, as with most of her life experiences, Mrs. Alice Ware does not lament missed vacations or any other missed opportunities. She finds joy in life whenever and wherever she is.

Her answer to the troubles that she has refused to carry with her?

Put it all in God's hands. Serenity granted.

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