GREENWICH, Conn. – Rachel Duira Baldinger Ward, wife of F. Champion Ward, died in Branford, Conn. on Feb. 23, at the age of 101.
Born the eldest daughter of the Rev. Albert Baldinger and Estelle Spencer Baldinger in Fowler, Calif., she was raised in the factory town of Butler, Pa., and attended Oberlin College in 1929. As an academician’s wife, she scrimped and saved through the Great Depression and World War II in New Haven; Denison, Ohio; and Illinois, where her husband served as Dean of the College of the University of Chicago.
When her family moved to India in 1954, it was in Delhi where she first began to reach out, taking part in food and toy drives, ministering to local refugees, and taking part in the cottage industries movement. When the family returned to the U.S., her activism took off. She became a vocal and politic champion of the disenfranchised: the nagging conscience in Greenwich. She fought with the Board of Estimate and Taxation to provide affordable housing; and in 1967, she was a delegate in her husband’s stead to the “Pacem in Terris” conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 1968, she persuaded local grocers and families to donate a truckload of food to the Poor Peoples’ Campaign. She was an active and lifelong Democrat; served on the Board of the NAACP of Greenwich; lobbied on behalf of health aides and domestic workers; joined the board of the National Home Caring Council; and much more.
In 1969, she began a decade-long tenure as a member of the Greenwich Board of Social Services. She became president of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, which presented her with the Director’s Award in 1989 for helping to redirect its mission from education to active advocacy.
In 1991, on the eve of her departure from Greenwich, she received the town’s Community Service Award. She became the first female president of the Oberlin Alumni Association. In 1996 she received the Alumni Medal and in 2010 the Alumni Association named their new Alumni Center in her honor.
She is survived by her sister; three children; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Her husband, Dr. F. Champion Ward of the Ford Foundation, served on the Greenwich School Board. He died in 2007.
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