Chapter 1: The Search

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I started out in 1992 to write an article about Tom Buchanan, one of the western genre’s most popular series heroes in the 1960s. As I began researching the creator, Jonas Ward, I hit wall after wall until this hazy author assumed more importance than the series hero he created.

Buchanan was set to pasture as I grew more obsessed with casting light upon the shadowy author.

I scrounged the corners of the Mansfield University library, going through seemingly endless volumes of Contemporary Authors, until I finally connected Jonas Ward with William Ard. I found a brief, sketchy entry in one of the earliest editions.

Ard was born July 18, 1922 in Brooklyn, NY. He attended the Admiral Farragut Naval Academy from 1936-38 and earned a BA at Dartmouth in 1944.

The year of his death, 1962, is followed by a question mark. The mystery continued. He was about 40 years old when he died. But the date is unsure and the cause was not listed.

I was to find out that the date of his death was wrong and to this day is listed inaccurately in reference books and Websites.

Ard left a wife, Eileen and two children. Even if his wife were, by some chance, still alive, she was probably remarried. In a country of over 300 million people, I knew my chances of finding the wife of a man who died nearly four decades ago were slim.

Slim. . .

A son, William T. Ard Jr. was listed. Research turned up a William T. Ard in New Jersey and one in Texas.

I took a gamble and called the New Jersey number. This Ard was not the writer’s son, as I had hoped. He did turn out to be the novelist’s first cousin, however. A polite and courteous man, Mr. Ard said he knew little about the author but said his brother, John, had once done a family tree and perhaps could help. He would be returning from Florida soon.

I waited and finally made contact with John Ard, a judge who was indeed very interested and helpful.

“I don’t remember much about Bill,” John said. “But I do recollect that he died around 1960, of cancer. He was living in Florida.” As we talked, he recalled more.

“He had been in the service and was discharged because of injury to his hand,” John Ard said.

Bill’s mother, Judge Ard said, died fairly early in Bill’s life. His father, Robert, remarried. He had another son, named Robert. He was Bill’s half-brother.

Robert, he was sure, married and moved to the Midwest. We hung up, promising to contact each other if either of us found more information. Within a half hour John called back.

He’d found an address for Robert Ard.

I called one afternoon and talked to Robert’s wife, Kathy. She and Robert were interested in Ard’s career. “You know,” Kathy said, “his wife is still alive. She’s a really wonderful and sharp person. I think she’d be happy to talk about Bill.”

It was one of those moments when the brain goes on hold, when, for just a moment, you know there are indeed miracles.

Kathy said she would contact Eileen, explaining that the former Mrs. Ard was naturally a bit cautious. Weeks went by. I heard nothing.

I was too close. I couldn’t let this chance go. I called Kathy back. Yes, she had talked with Eileen and she was very interested in the project but needed a little time. This was all very sudden after some 35 years. Kathy asked me once again about my background and my interest in William Ard.

One sunny Sunday in May I was working in the garden. My son hollered out the back door. “It’s for you. It’s a woman in Florida!”

“Hello, this is Eileen Hendrick, Bill Ard’s wife.”

Eileen Hendrick is a gracious, keen and cultured woman. Yes, she was interested in the project, but what in heaven’s name, she asked, is a “vintage paperback collector”?

I stumbled a bit, unprepared for the question. (We in the collecting world take it for granted that the entire universe revolves around vintage paperbacks). I gave her an impromptu overview of the field and explained that Mr. Ard is a very collectible author, and a very mysterious one, that collectors and scholars would like to more about him.

We talked for a long time. Yes, she was very interested in the project. Could I send her some background on myself? Of course.

And from there, we corresponded, talked on the phone and became friends.

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One Response to “Chapter 1: The Search”

  1. Robert Ard Says:

    My name is Robert Ard and am doing a family tree and would love to know more about William Ard for my tree the judge is a cousin, I would appreciate if your could e-mail any info to ollieard@hotmail.com

    Thank You

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