Wayne Leslie Ware, our beloved brother and friend to many, returned to his Heavenly home on April 11, 2020. He was born on Feb. 27, 1952, in Fort Morgan, Colorado to Ruth Julia Lebsock Ware and Karl J. Ware. A few years later, the family moved to Worland, Wyoming, and then to Billings, in October 1959. Wayne was the oldest of four children and loved his family with all his heart. As the oldest child, he was their protector and Hero.
Wayne had many gifts, talents, and abilities. One of his greatest gifts was his fine example and keen ability to make friends and uplift others. From the time he was a young boy, he never met a stranger and everyone, no matter their situation, was his friend. Wayne was genuine, a true gentleman, and always remained true to his values. He had a twinkle in his eye and an endearing grin that made you feel special. He never held a grudge and touched many people in many wonderful ways.
Wayne loved nature and being outdoors to hunt and fish. As a boy of 5 years, he wanted to go fishing with his dad and uncle, but they said he was too little and started on their way. Determined to go, Wayne hopped on his tricycle and pedaled as fast as he could behind them on the highway, a dangerous situation. The family dog ran beside him and barked until the men saw Wayne trucking down the highway on his tricycle. They went back for Wayne and he got to go fishing. Wayne’s resilient determination continued throughout his life. When he was 16, a friend’s young son was lost in a river. Wayne was one of the first to search for him. After days of searching in miserable, cold, rainy weather, the others gave up and left, but not Wayne. He continued to search for many days thereafter, oftentimes alone. Quitting was not in his vocabulary, and his courage and determination carried him through many difficult situations.
Throughout his childhood and life, Wayne loved and was actively involved in sports. He played football, baseball, softball and other sports. Many times, he was named MVP. His dream was to be a professional football player. The other teams’ strategy was not to win, but to “hurt the Ware kid” to win. Unfortunately, too many hard hits resulted in a serious leg injury that crushed his dream.
Wayne graduated from Billings West High School and earned his Associate’s Degree from Ricks College. He then attended and graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo. He loved BYU, especially the sports. He was the ASBYU Athletics Vice President and was deeply involved in various sporting activities. He went on road trips with the football team, organized and handled student ticket distribution for 30,000 students, along with many other responsibilities. As ASBYU VP, he frequently met with the President of BYU, Dallin H. Oaks, and greatly enjoyed those interactions. After graduating with a BS Degree, Wayne continued his associations with BYU as a member of the Cougar Club for many decades. As a Legacy 3 Cougar Club member, he was humbled, but happy, to find his name on a plaque in the Student Athletic Building. Through these associations, he met many BYU and professional athletes and gained additional cherished friendships.
Wayne also had season tickets for BYU football and basketball for many years. Because he was a football referee, fans loved to sit near him and constantly asked questions about calls. Once, when the crowd “booed” at the refs, Wayne quietly said, “That was a good call” even though it was against his favored BYU team. Stunned by his response, spectators asked him to explain and from that point on he became a mentor to all around him and again made instant friendships. When unable to attend games, Wayne willingly gave his tickets to friends so they could have the memorable experience of attending BYU games in great seats. This is just one example of his kind generosity and continuous desire to share with others.
Wayne loved playing softball for many years. In his prime, he could throw a strike over home plate from the far back fence of center field. He was competitive, as most are when playing sports, but in a good way. To this a good friend said, “It’s a rare trait to be competitive and still have everyone love you, but that was Wayne — he had that rare trait.”
Wayne was involved in all aspects of softball. He was instrumental in helping develop and improve Stewart Park and spent many late nights grooming fields. He served on the Billings Softball Board of Directors for many years including as President and Vice President and was on the Amateur Softball Hall of Fame Election Committee. He loved all his friends and associates involved in softball, especially his good friend of over 50 years, John Weber.
He was also the Softball Commissioner for the Big Sky State Games for 34 years, since it began, with the first year as assistant commissioner. Because of his remarkable leadership skills, he easily organized and successfully completed numerous softball tournaments and greatly influenced many people throughout Montana. He loved being an instrumental part of this great event and all those involved with the State Games. In 2006, Wayne received the Big Sky State Games Volunteer of the Year award — it was the inaugural year of the award. Wayne’s continued volunteer service with the State Games and other community activities is commendable and, in many ways, unmatched.
Wayne was a member of the Billings Midland Roundtable, where he served as President for a time. He loved the athletic, scholastic ideal and involvement in athlete of the year activities and other events to foster and promote youth sports. Wayne also headed up the Score Table for the MSU-B Men’s basketball games and worked score tables for Rocky football. Through all these activities, Wayne especially enjoyed his associations with the students and others.
Because of his love of football, he became a referee for over 25 years. He taught study classes and was a great example to many. He refereed high school, college and Indoor Arena football. Through this, he developed many wonderful relationships and lifelong friends. Many expressed feelings of true respect and admiration for Wayne and his great example. A fellow referee asked Wayne why he gave up prime football games to others. Wayne responded, “You have to do what’s best for everyone.” This referee said that impressed him so much that he adopted that as his personal motto. Wayne truly cherished his friendships and associations with all fellow referees.
After graduating from the BYU Engineering Department, Wayne worked construction for some years and then worked for the City of Billings Engineering Department until he retired in July 2019. Again, Wayne made many friends with those he worked with, both inside and outside the office.
Wayne was kind, compassionate, and tenderhearted. He lovingly cared for his mother until the time of her passing two years ago. Shortly thereafter, he endured a difficult surgery valiantly and courageously where he truly proved himself in the “furnace of afflictions.” He was an amazing example of staying positive and enduring well.
Wayne always believed that people were more important than things and epitomized that throughout his life. He was a great listener and had the rare ability to focus completely on the person he was with. He always had the right words for any situation. His sister, Lori, marveled many times at his keen insight and skilled handling of difficult or awkward situations — he was and always will be her Hero. Many people stated that they were a better person because of Wayne and their associations with him and his good example. His good friend said, “People who didn’t even know Wayne are better because of him and all he has done and accomplished. His good works will ripple on and on just as occurs with a stone skipping over water.” To Wayne, his friends were, and will always be, “forever friends.”
Wayne was an incredible leader, organizer, and planner. When someone said it couldn’t be done, Wayne showed them how it could be done. He would do anything to help anyone. When an older friend called, he went out late at night in a blizzard to bury her pet in frozen ground without complaint. This is just one example of many of his kindness and service to others.
Wayne loved the Lord and his Heavenly Father with all his heart. He was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He enjoyed Scouting and earned his Duty to God Award. He served in many Church leadership positions and especially enjoyed serving at the Billings Montana Temple. He had many Church friends and loved his associations with them. His benevolent acts of service to others were constant and often unknown — he just did what needed to be done and rarely talked about it. Wayne was a remarkable man of great faith and wisdom. Because of his love of the Lord, he loved the scripture, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
Wayne truly had a big heart. He was an exceptional man — a man of great character, integrity, and a friend to all. His cousin, Boyd, said that Wayne’s influence was astounding — he was like a magnet; and, that he had a quiet confidence to never be afraid. He touched many through his good works and marvelous example. Wayne was true, faithful, honest, fair, valiant, stalwart, noble, fearless, strong, genuine, dependable, intuitive, humble, gentle, loving, kind, generous, positive, greatly respected, and much, much more. His goodness and brightness illuminated all around him. No one could ask for a better son, brother, or truer friend than he. We miss you with all our hearts and await the day when we are reunited once again.
Wayne was preceded in death by his parents, Karl and Ruth Ware; his maternal grandparents, Jacob and Mollie Lebsock; his paternal grandparents; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. He is survived by his siblings, Charmayne, Duane and Lorraine; as well as his sister-in-law and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Because of COVID-19 issues, a memorial service to celebrate Wayne will be held at a later date.