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Lesa Cathleen Riseling Ward
© Roberts and Sons Funeral Home
Submitted by: Jo Aguirre

© Roberts and Son Funeral Home

Lesa Cathleen Riseling Ward was born on February 14, 1956 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Happy and Bo Riseling. After graduating from Blackwell High School in 1974, Lesa attended Northern Oklahoma College before transferring to Oklahoma State University where she completed degrees in Psychology and Sociology. Soon after graduating from OSU, Lesa began her life of service to her church, community and to education. Her career began at a boy’s ranch in Perkins, Oklahoma where Lesa selflessly devoted herself to guiding troubled youth. Her impact was immediate.

On March 3, 1979, Lesa married the love of her life, David Ward, who she affectionately called “Crockett”. Lesa and David settled in Blackwell and Lesa continued her life of service at her local church. While she loved her job, Lesa and David had dreams of starting a family. After resigning from her full-time position and accepting a part-time position at First National Bank in order to focus on her dreams of children, she became pregnant. What happened next paved the way for her many years of dedicated service to Blackwell Public Schools. After becoming pregnant, Lesa was approached about a counseling position at Blackwell High School. She applied, and soon after began her position as counselor. After serving at the high school for seven years, Lesa accepted the position as Director of Special Services. After another seven years of service at the Central Office, recognizing her ability and interest in how she could impact the district for a greater good, Lesa was encouraged by other administrators to go back to the University to complete her administrative certification. She heeded their suggestions and not only did she receive her principal’s certification, but also qualified for her superintendent certification from the State Department of Education. Lesa was later asked by then Superintendent, Dr. Richard Strahorn to become the Middle School Principal. She readily agreed and began her enduring role as a student advocate. Lesa served as the Middle School Principal for seven years and was honored by the State of Oklahoma as State Middle School Principal of the Year.

Lesa’s final role in the school system was as Superintendent for Blackwell. During her role as Superintendent, while addressing both instruction and assessment for students, Lesa didn’t forget about student needs beyond the classroom. Through her leadership, “Save Our Kids”, was organized and what began as an information sharing venture, quickly transformed into advocacy programs for parental and student counseling and growth. While Superintendent, Lesa was honored as District Superintendent of the Year. One of the biggest highlights of Lesa’s career was working with the community to see Blackwell Elementary come to fruition. Lesa served as Superintendent for nine years.

Lesa faced her latest challenge with the same courage and faith that she exhibited her whole life. When her immune system was compromised, she sacrificed the superintendent job she loved because she wanted the district to move forward. Still wanting to make a difference, she applied for a counseling job for an online school. This allowed communication over the phone and via computer. With some eight-hundred students in her charge, she spent eight to ten hours a day for five months enrolling, counseling and encouraging.

We will all remember her selfless spirit, contagious laugh and beautiful smile. Lesa loved her community and her school, but she loved her family and her Lord most of all.

Other community involvement and honors include Rotary, PEO, Deaconess at First Christian Church where Lesa also sang in the church choir, Past President of Blackwell Chamber of Commerce, Blackwell Citizen of the Year, and inductee into the Blackwell Public School Foundation Hall of Fame in 2013.

She is survived by her husband, David Ward of Blackwell; two daughters, Michal Shaw and husband Wade of Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Ann Rosales and husband Omar of Norman, Oklahoma; father Bo Riseling of Blackwell; sister Linda Vowel and husband Tony of Blackwell; sister Carol Houghton and husband Gary of Cashion, Oklahoma; brother Larry Riseling and wife Susan of Dumas, Texas; brother Creyton Riseling and wife Carrie of Casper, Wyoming; three grandchildren, Henry Shaw, Sam Shaw and Molly Rosales; and numerous nieces and nephews. Lesa’s favorite pastime was spending time with her three grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her mother, Happy Riseling.

Services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, January 21st in the First Christian Church in Blackwell with Rev. Jeff Koch officiating. Burial will follow in the Blackwell Cemetery.

Casketbearers will be Dr. Steve Hart, Les Courtney, Brad Bechtel, Doug Ogle, Barry Stafford, Rich Cantillon, Jerry Field and Mike Simpson.

The family will greet friends on Monday evening, January 20th at the funeral home from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial gifts be made to the Blackwell Community Foundation for the Lesa Ward Scholarship, or to the Blackwell Public School Foundation. Donations should be made payable to the Blackwell Community Foundation (c/o Lesa Ward Scholarship, PO Box 514, Blackwell, OK 74631) and the Blackwell Public School Foundation (Attn: Eric Webb, 201 E. Blackwell, Blackwell, OK 74631).

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