Kentwood ‘founder’ remembered for his passion, dedication

A picture of the first Kentwood City Council from "The Story of Kentwood." Quentin 'Jack" Ward is on the far left.
A portion of a picture of the first Kentwood City Council from “The Story of Kentwood.” Quentin ‘Jack” Ward is on the far left.

It has been a long time since Quinten “Jack” Ward has walked through the doors of the City of Kentwood but his influence and passion for the city can still be felt today.


Ward, considered one of the founding fathers of the City of Kentwood, died Feb. 11 in Denver, Colorado, surrounded by family. He was 90.


“I remember he was very active and very passionate about the city,” said Nancy Shane who started with the City of Kentwood in 1974 as the mayor’s secretary. Shane currently is the assistant to the Kentwood fire chief.


“He was one of the original leaders who helped to shape our city,” Shane said. “He was very conservative and really set the tone and the direction for the city fiscally.


“The city has continued to follow his direction and because of that we have been without the problems that some of our neighbors have had.”


It was the mid-1960s when a group of Paris Township citizens decided enough was enough when it came to the annexation of township industrial property. In 1964, enough votes were garnered for the formation of a nine-member Charter Commission and the three-year clock started ticking to secure charter approval from voters and the Michigan Secretary of State.


With some other charter changes, including the establishment of wards, the charter was approved in 1967 with Paris Township becoming the City of Kentwood.


Ward was one of the first commissioners elected to the council and he served as a first ward commissioner from 1967 to 1981. Shane said she remembers that he simply decided not to run for election in 1981. Ward did run for mayor in 1979 but was defeated by Marvin Hoeflinger. It was also the same year that the city’s first female commissioner, Joyce Van Keulen, was elected.


According to “The Story of Kentwood,” from 1967 to 1977, “the elected officials of Kentwood occupied themselves with setting up a new city government and all its many services – including fire and police, protection, zoning, sanitation and libraries.


Shane said while Ward had a passion for the whole city, one of his personal projects was the city’s library. A year after the city incorporated, a library was built at 200 44th St. and in 1969 was moved to a rented building at St. Mary Magdalen Church. Plans were in the works to construct a new library but was delayed when city leaders discovered that it would be more than twice the budgeted amount. In 1975, the new facility would be built at 4700 Kalamazoo Ave. SE. Ward also would see the construction of Kentwood’s City Hall at its current location, which was dedicated in 1977.


According to a recent obituary in “The Grand Rapids Press,” Ward graduated from the University of Michigan in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and also earned a master’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University.


He worked for Lear Siegler and joined six other engineers to form a small business that grew into X-Rite, which pioneered a new era in the science of color measurement. Ward’s interest in sailing also inspired him to also start The Sailboat Center, a family business in  Grand Rapids.