TURIN — One thing was clear following the funeral of Kevin A. Ward Jr. Thursday: he has always been and will always be a racer.
“When it was race season, we were at a track at least every weekend,” recalled Ward’s cousin, Amanda Ward. “Let’s face it, not many children got the opportunity at four years’ old to jump in a go-cart and race. He was an amazing sprint car driver.”
Mr. Ward, 20, Port Leyden, died Saturday after being struck by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
“I met my best friend at age of five on the race track,” recalled Dylan Swiernik. “From the age of five I looked up to him as he showed me fast ways around the track.”
Most attendees in the crowded auditorium at South Lewis High School donned either orange or black in Ward’s memory. Stitched into the lining of his casket were crossed race flags. Hanging just over the casket were white flowers that spelled out “13,” surrounded by a backdrop of orange flowers. No. 13 was Ward’s race car number.
Several community and family members spoke at the funeral, including all three of Ward’s older sisters, who remembered him as their little brother.
Christi Cavanaugh recalled a trip to the emergency room for a bump on the head and the doctor saying he could not race for a month.
“You told him you’d be racing in the next upcoming race,” she said.
Sister Kayla Herring added, “As someone has said, if there wasn’t a dirt track up in heaven before, there definitely is now.”
Ward was buried at Port Leyden Cemetery. Following the service, community members were invited back to the Ward family home.