Billy Gene Ward (Café) was born May 14, 1950, in Donalsonville, Georgia, to Mrs. Mamie Lee McCloud and Mr. Jessie Davis Keaton Sr. His stepmother is Mrs. Lucille Osborne Keaton. Billy made his transition on Thursday, August 5, 2021, in the Intensive Care Unit of Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge, Georgia.
Billy accepted CHRIST at an early age. He received his primary and secondary education in the public schools of Decatur County in Bainbridge. His mother later moved them to Hempstead, New York, in 1965, where he graduated high school and furthered his education. He received numerous certificates in Fire Prevention and Air Resource Protection. Billy received a minor in Bookkeeping, Speech Training and Personality Development. He also received a license in F50 Sprinkler System Compactors, P16 Supervise Low PSI Oil Burner and F17 Sprinkler City Main Certificate of Instruction. He was a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Aikido and Jujitsu. Also, he was an I. A. A. B. O. International License Official Referee for over 35 years.
Billy lived in New York for over 40 years. He was the Supervisor of a high-rise apartment building. The tragedy of September 11, 2001, brought Billy back home. Upon returning home, he worked at John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc. until his retirement.
Billy helped to start recycling here in Bainbridge. He served as a mentor for a Bainbridge High School student who graduated in 2018 and enlisted in the United States Army. He was Co-Founder of Kids ‘n Kops and Civic 101 Programs. Billy was a motivator and leading organizer. He could be seen sweating with Adopt-A-Street workers cleaning up Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and many other streets throughout our city. His leadership skills have been evident throughout Bainbridge, including volunteering to referee games at the YMCA, Grace Academy, public schools and Bainbridge State College (now ABAC). Billy was also an instructor.
He was a trailblazer. He was the first to integrate a white segregated school, water fountain and theater in Decatur County. Billy was selected as the Kiwanis Club of Bainbridge’s Man of the Year 2018. He wore many hats here in Decatur County, namely Chairman of Collaborative Impact for Decatur County, Supporting Hands of Decatur County and Hutto High School Class of 1968 Alumni; Deputy Registrar Manager of Decatur County Board of Elections; Organizer of Adopt-A-Street Program; Active Member of NAACP and Family Connect; Board Staff Member of Habitat for Humanity; Bainbridge-Decatur County Planning Commissioner; Member of Great Works in the Community and Alzheimer’s Support Group; Musician, writing music and playing electric bass guitar; and Community Engagement Coordinator for Save Hutto High School.
To know Billy was to love him. He never met a stranger. May the works he has done speak for him.
Billy leaves to cherish his memories his devoted fiancé Edith Miller, Bainbridge, GA; mother Mamie Lee McCloud, Bainbridge, GA; daughter Kimbler Clark, Philadelphia, PA; two sons Billy Ward II (Krista), Charlotte, NC, and Datril Andre Ward (Nina), Reistertown, MD; three stepchildren Larry J. Rodgers (Devorah), Quincy, FL, Kenneth Rodgers (Tanetta), Chesapeake, VA, and LaVertae Marshall (DeAudre), Atlanta, GA; eight grandchildren Donnell A. Clark, Bryan J. Clark, Latifah N. Ward, Amber K. Ward, Savanah N. Ward, Billy G. Ward III, Datril Andre Ward Jr. and Chantel Ward; great granddaughter Tamiah Ward; fifteen stepgrandchildren Niguel Tootle, Zy’Kyeria Kinder, Niles Rodgers, A’Kemi Rodgers, Alika Marshall, Zlear Bouie, Kasia King, Kayden Rodgers, Talon Marshall, Jayce Jackson, Larry Jerome Rodgers III, Aiden Rodgers, Jayquan Rodgers, Imani Rodgers and Takayra Sanders; six sisters Vivian K. Robinson (Floyd), Atlanta, GA, Shirley Spell, Sandra Watson, Theresa Ann McCloud, all of Bainbridge, GA, Cosandra Keaton, Marietta, GA, and Janice K. Neal, Atlanta, GA; four brothers Jessie D. Keaton Jr., Macon, GA, Hurtis Keaton (Jacinta), Atlanta, GA, Curtis Keaton Sr., Bainbridge, GA, and Michael Keaton (Monique), Jacksonville, FL; a very special best friend Lewis “Johnny” Edward Montgomery (Effie), Bainbridge, GA; and a host aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews, cousins, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, friends and patrons.
He was preceded in death by his father Jessie D. Keaton Sr.; stepgrandson Jayvon Rodgers; sister Nina L. Broadnax; sister-in-law Gertrude Keaton; brother-in-law John Broadnax; aunt Gussie M. Sly; and five uncles Harry Ward, Roosevelt Ward Sr., J. C. Ward, John H. Keaton and Mack Keaton.
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