PC Bill Ward: Tributes pour in for 'singing policeman' described as Sheffield's 'best copper ever'
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A much-loved former Sheffield PC affectionately known around the city as the 'singing policeman' has sadly died.
Tributes have poured in to Willis Ward, better known as Bill Ward, who died peacefully in hospital on September 23, aged 86.
Bill worked as a police constable during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, initially treading the beat around Burngreave and Pitsmoor. He also visited schools around the city, educating children about road safety and other key messages.
Despite his imposing 6ft4ins frame, his family described him as a kind and gentle figure, who had a way with people young and old, and knew how to command their respect.
Talented musican enjoyed national success as barbershop singer
Bill was a talented musician and helped Hallmark of Harmony become British Barbershop Champions multiple times. He would also take his guitar to schools and often popped up on Radio Sheffield, singing his own compositions, earning himself his 'singing policeman' nickname.
After retiring from the police, he went on to work at Ecclesfield Parish Council as a community liaison officer and he was the chair of governors at Ballifield School in Handsworth for many years. In 1988, he was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his contribution to the community.
Bill's daughter Sue Ward told how her father had been born in 1937 in Whitwell, near Worksop, and after leaving school he had initially joined the Parachute Regiment as a trombonist.
He was 21 when he came to Sheffield and joined the police force and it was at a cafe in Fir Vale, close to where he was initially stationed that he met his future wife Maureen, with whom he went on to have three daughters, Sue, Annette and Liz.
Bill and Maureen, who lived in Handsworth, would go on to be blessed with two grandsons, one granddaughter and one great grandson.
Sue said he rarely talked to his family about his work and it was only now, following his death, that they were realising just what an impact he made on so many people.
They were overwhelmed by the response after they posted about his death on the Pitsmoorians of the Past Facebook group.
A 'true legend' and the 'best copper ever'
One person described him as a 'lovely man', adding: "He was on duty the night my mum went into labour with my brother. He stood outside our house all night to keep an eye on my sister and I while my dad went to hospital with her."
Another person called him a 'true legend' and a third said he was 'a proper community policeman and a real gentleman that genuinely cared about his community'.
Others called him the 'best copper ever', a 'great bobby' who 'kept us all in check and cared for our community', and a 'brilliant copper' whose dedication guaranteed 'you felt safe when he was around'.
Sue described how at home her dad, who had a 'wicked sense of humour', ensured they were 'always surrounded by fun laughter and music'.
She added: "He didn't come home telling us stories about his day, because to him, he was just doing his job to the best of his ability.
"Yes, we knew he was conscientious and passionate about his work. We knew that fairness, being inclusive, education and community were all things that were important to him. We knew this because of his BEM for services to the community.
"But he never saw himself as someone who was going over and above. He was just talking, listening, supporting, doing. If anyone needed any help, if he could say 'yes' he would say 'yes'. He was always surprised when he discovered people remembered him for something 'special' he had done!"
Anyone who remembers Bill and wishes to make a donation in his memory can do so at: kidneyresearchuk.org/support/donate.