Skip to Main Content

Wilkes County Veterans History Project: Ward Eller

Ward Eller's Photos

Ward Eller's Story

Ward Eller was drafted into the Army when he was 21. He attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina before going overseas for 22 months. He spent 4 months in Incheon, Korea, before traveling to Hokkaido, Japan for 16 months. While Ward was in Korea he was assigned Battalion S1 Clerk, then transferred to linemen, then communications, and eventually to the frontline. He received a Combat Infantry Badge, and a Bronze Star for service in Korea. 

At the time, Ward and his now wife Kate, were dating. They kept in contact through letters and the occasional phone call, although Ward recalls that it once took two weeks for a call to go through to her. Once his time in the service was over, he returned to Wilkesboro, North Carolina where he and Kate got married. 

When Ward returned home he became involved in the local VFW and serving the local veterans. He and Kate both finished college at Appalachian State University, and they both returned for Graduate school. Ward finished his Master's degree in Administration first, while Kate finished her Master's degree later by taking Saturday and night classes. Kate and Ward both worked in the public school systems for 33 years. Kate was a teacher and Ward was a teacher, and a principal. 

Aside from teaching and his service to our country, Ward is a passionate musician. He started playing guitar as a child, and continued to play publicly until 2019. Ward formed a band with some of his cousins and friends before he was drafted. The band was signed to Rich-R-Tone Record Company, and then later with Blue Ridge Records in the 50's. 

"Before we went into service we did several local shows and a lot of traveling in Winston, Boone, they had the radio station down where the VFW is now ... It was a lot of fun pickin' and grinnin' and carryin' on" 

When Ward was drafted several other band members were too, and the band broke up. After service some of the members reconnected and continued playing. The band disbanded permanently after the death of one of the members. Ward continued to play for 60 years at the local VFW. He also opened at the Chicken Fest, a bluegrass music event, for several years. More recently, Ward and some of his band members were recognized by the International Bluegrass Music Association with a lifetime membership and a ceremony at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky.