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Melissa Dawn Ward

Obituary for Melissa Dawn Ward

July 5, 1972 - January 16, 2018
Austin, Texas | Age 45

Bridge Builder


Melissa Dawn Ward passed away at her home in Austin, Texas on January 16, 2018. She was 45 years old and is survived by her loving husband Chris; two children, Johnny and Krista Cummings; two grandchildren, Logan Ray and Stella Dawn Cummings; her mother Bea; and three of her four brothers, Brian, Kevin, and Michael.

Melissa was born on July 5, 1972, in Fort Hood, Texas to Beatrice Wiley Loesch and William Clark Sr. She spent most of her formative years in the Waco area, and lived the last several years of her life in Austin.

Melissa was first and foremost a devoted family woman—an endlessly loving and beloved mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister, and aunt. She was especially proud of her two children and her first grandchild, Logan. And she was eagerly looking forward to welcoming granddaughter Stella, who came into this world two days after Melissa was called home from it. She was equally devoted to Chris, whom she met in 2001 and married in 2009.

Melissa was also devoted to the human family, touching literally tens of thousands of lives. Inspired by the grievous loss of her beloved younger brother Billy, which was later followed by a transformative prison mediation with the man who took his life, Melissa became involved with a rehabilitation program called Bridges To Life. The mission of Bridges To Life is to connect communities to prisons in an effort to reduce the recidivism rate (particularly that resulting from violent crimes), reduce the number of crime victims, and enhance public safety. The spiritual mission of Bridges To Life is to minister to victims and offenders in an effort to show them the transforming power of God's love and forgiveness. Bridges has worked in over 95 prisons (48 in Texas). Bridges takes crime victims into the prison to work directly with offenders. Over more than a decade, Melissa devoted thousands of hours, drove thousands of miles, and shared her story with thousands of Texas prison inmates and fellow volunteers through speaking and conducting classes in the course of her work with Bridges.

Melissa's story also appears in a new book, Violence, Restorative Justice, and Forgiveness by Marilyn Armour and Mark Umbreit, which was published on January 18, the same day Melissa's granddaughter Stella was born.

In 2010, Melissa became the second recipient ever of the Patricia Stonestreet Victim Volunteer of the Year Award for dedication to the mission of Bridges To Life and outstanding volunteer service. The award recognizes an extraordinarily dedicated victim volunteer who donated the most volunteer hours to Bridges To Life. Melissa became something of a legend throughout Texas, with her inspirational story and spirit reaching crime victims, volunteers, prison inmates, and family members of victims and inmates even beyond the thousands she spoke with in person.

In addition to her work with Bridges To Life, Melissa also started a Facebook group offering support and resources for family members of prison inmates, which grew exponentially. In the little free time left to her after her volunteer work and caring for her family, Melissa also enjoyed crafting. She moderated online crafting groups, through which she made friends from all over the globe. Indeed, Melissa made friends wherever she went, whether online or in person.

Melissa was a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Austin.

Melissa is preceded in death by her brother William "Billy" Clark Jr., her grandparents CD and Lois Wiley, and her father William Clark Sr.

She is survived by her husband Christian Ward; mother Beatrice Wiley Loesch; son John Cummings IV and his fiancée Jessica Corbett; daughter Krista Cummings; grandchildren Logan Ray Cummings and Stella Dawn Cummings; brothers Brian Lentz, Kevin Lentz, and Michael Loesch and his wife Jamie; and numerous beloved nieces and nephews.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, January 27, at 10:00 a.m. at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2111 Alexander Ave., Austin, Texas 78722, A visitation will be held on Friday, January 26 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Weed-Corley-Fish North, 3125 North Lamar Blvd., Austin, Texas 78705,

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Melissa's memory to Bridges to Life, P.O. Box 570895, Houston, Texas 77257-0895,, or Redeemer Presbyterian Church (address above).

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to:
  • Bridges To Life
    P.O Box 570895
    Houston, TX 77257-0895

Message from the Family

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Arrangements By

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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