I recall the first time I met Alan Ward early last year at the downtown farmers' market in front of the Main Library. I liked him instantly. I met with him to talk about the market's troubles with that troublesome Mexican flag-burning bozo the Tucson Weekly calls Asshat. Ward was manager of the market that rotated from the Presidio to the library two-days a week. He died yesterday, Sunday, Oct. 18 in hospice care at Tucson Medical Center.
Ward came down ill Oct. 8, and his friends Bob & Dianne Lichtenberg took him to the hospital and took over managing the market, hoping Ward would get better and return. This Wednesday, market vendors will meet to discuss how the market will be managed with Ward absent from the scene.
Bob told me this afternoon that he and his wife are happy to be involved, and there is some discussion that Alan's son may be interested. A memorial is being planned, although Bob said there isn't a date or location set. Bob said Alan is survived by his son, Cody, and his sister and mother, who are from Michigan. I imagine many of the vendors, past and present, can be listed as survivors, too.
"We’re Alan’s friends, but he was a friend to everybody... I’ve known where he hasn’t charged somebody because they weren’t selling anything and they were hurting for money... He was one of the most decent human beings I have known. He’d just helped people.
One of the vendors is in a wheelchair travels by bus to get down there. Alan lugged his table around with him, so he didn’t have to lug it on the bus. Alan also had extra tables for people who didn’t have one. He had market umbrellas for people who didn’t have tents, so they didn’t cook up in the sun.
When asked if Alan gone means the future of the market is in question, Bob replied:
"I don’t know. I think the market should go on. If it wasn’t working the vendors wouldn’t come down, and they do. We had 16 vendors last Wednesday. It’s an important place for artists to go and sell, and even see if they want to sell. I had a teacher last Thursday come down and sell his art work rather than teach. He sat for the day and got a feel for what it was like to see if wanted to do it again. At the end of day I did what Alan would have done - I didn't charge him."
When I interviewed Alan, he was struggling with getting the city to pay attention to complaints he had that Asshat was causing a major disturbance at the market, especially to his vendors who were there just trying to make a living while listening to Asshat's bullhorn rants. Alan made a difference, but it seemed when students from City High got hurt arguing with Asshat, the Tucson Police Department finally intervened. Alan won, and peace was restored to the market and his vendors. Back then he described them to me as "fearless."
He worked hard with the city to establish a market downtown. I'm sure when the vendors get together on Wednesday, they may use the word fearless to describe Alan. After first meeting him last year, I always stopped to talk with him when I was downtown and passing the market. He'd share story ideas with me and never hesitated to call if he thought one of his vendors was be treated unfairly by the city. When I'd go downtown for record searches, I loved seeing his old green and white VW bus - that meant Alan was around helping his vendors put up tables and get booths set up. Sometimes, I felt especially lucky when I'd see him and his bus at an out-of-town festival, where Alan set-up his own booth selling his silver creations from old spoons and forks.
"He was looking for something to give to the city," Bob said.
Thank goodness. Hopefully, there are few more gems like Alan ready to take his place.