COLUMBIA — When he was 10 years old, Adam Ward threw a coin into the Neptune Fountain and made a wish.
He and his mother, Tami Miller, were visiting the Epcot Center at Disney World around Christmas. As they approached the fountain, Adam watched other people throw coins in, and he asked his mother what they were doing.
They were making wishes, she told him. So Adam threw a coin in.
"A million things ran through my mind of what he would wish for, like being able to walk or being healthy and all that," Miller said. "And he said, 'I wish every day could be like today.' And that kind of sums him up. That's just how unselfish he was."
Adam Lee Ward of Columbia died Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at University Hospital. He was 28.
Mr. Ward was born Sept. 18, 1985, in Fulton. Born with spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder, he spent a lot of time in the hospital and underwent dozens of surgeries.
"The nurses used to fight over who was going to take care of him because he never complained about anything," Miller said. "And that's just how he was in life; you never saw him without a smile."
Sharon Evermon, who was one of Mr. Ward's nurses for four years, said everyone who ever took care of him was always happy to come back and do so again.
Like many children, he would watch television from his hospital bed. But while most 6-year-olds wanted cartoons, Adam requested cooking shows.
"He was really into cooking," Miller said. "He didn't care about eating, but he really was fascinated with cooking and cooking shows."
"I would take him to the grocery store, and he could tell you everything that was in the produce aisle when he was little," Miller said. "Like radicchio. What 6-year-old kid knows what radicchio is when they go by it in the store?"
He also loved the cooking show personalities, specifically celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, whom he met at a book-signing in Kansas City.
"Adam got there before he started signing the books, and Emeril spent over an hour with him just one-on-one," Miller said. "That was an amazing day for him."
Mr. Ward enjoyed riding in limos and taking the train. He liked any kind of transportation, actually, his mother said.
"He absolutely loved to ride rides and just had no fear of anything," Miller said. He went to Six Flags every year for his birthday until he physically couldn't anymore. One year for Christmas, he and his mother took the train from Jefferson City to St. Louis. They visited his favorite restaurant, The Old Spaghetti Factory, in downtown St. Louis and hung out at Union Station.
He didn't want to come back, she said.
His love for interaction with other people brought him close to teachers, nurses, family and friends.
Janice Kite was Mr. Ward's longtime caretaker, whom his family describes as a second mom. Kite said he was friends with everyone.
"He loved to talk; he'd talk nonstop," Kite said. "At lunch, instead of eating, he'd be over there socializing with the custodians."
Sharon Evermon was one of Mr. Ward's nurses for several years when he was older. She said he loved it when people would visit him and he always kept in touch with people, often sending little notes through Facebook on holidays.
"Even though he was confined because of his condition, he lived through other people who would come and see him," Evermon said. "He was always interested in other people and their concerns, too."
Ellen Lanphere, a retired teacher with Columbia Public Schools, worked with him in elementary school through high school.
When they first met, she was working as a paraprofessional with the adaptive physical education program. She went into his classroom and said she was there to take him to physical education, but Adam didn't want to go.
Lanphere asked where he would like to go instead. He gave her "a crooked smile" and said he wanted to go to Hawaii to see the "hula hula" girls.
"Adam had me at 'hula hula' for the rest of his life," she said.
Mr. Ward graduated from Rock Bridge High School when he was 21. He enjoyed school so much he would have stayed forever if they'd have kept him, his mother said.
Mr. Ward also enjoyed sports and music. His two iPods full of music vouch for his interest in all types of music, but he especially liked country. He attended the concerts of country music stars Chris Young and Tim McGraw.
"He'd listen to one bud and I'd listen to the other bud, and then we'd dance," Evermon said.
Mr. Ward also was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and the MU football and basketball teams.
"That's all he wore," Miller said. "Truly, his wardrobe was Mizzou."
He will be buried in black and gold.
Mr. Ward is survived by his mother; Kite; a grandmother, Shirley Neimeyer; and two brothers, Danton Scott and Shaun Rottman.
Visitation will be at 2 p.m. Monday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Service will follow at 4 p.m. at the same location. Gary Ostercamp, chaplain at University Hospital, will conduct the service.
Tributes can be posted at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetery.com.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.