Tonya Reese Ward passed away on September 16, 2023 after a brief illness. During her 69 years she created a legacy of laughter, love, and support that had impacts well beyond her hometown of Oklahoma City.
Tonya was born in humble beginnings, the youngest of eight children, and worked hard throughout her life to blaze new paths, often breaking down barriers along her way. As a high school student she was the first Black woman to hold the office of Secretary for Oklahoma Girls State as well as the first woman to earn a Varsity letter at Douglass High School. Tonya remained physically active throughout her life often walking five to ten miles a day often with friends and family.
Tonya was a true life long learner, earning her Ph.D. in Organizational Education from Oklahoma State University in 2009, and continuing to take courses to further expand her knowledge even beyond earning her terminal degree. She shared her love of education with those around her through serving as an adjunct professor at Mid-America Christian University and a Special Education teacher at Epic Charter Schools.
Tonya was best known for her unending energy and her infectious smile. She was always ready and willing to lend a hand in support of anyone in need, whether that be through providing resources, helping secure needed supplies, or sharing her time to provide a listening ear. Her quick wit and warm humor left anyone who spent time with her laughing and appreciative of having had the opportunity to share her energy.
Tonya was the biological mother of two children, however she served as a surrogate mother to many more, sharing her love and wisdom with all who needed its comfort. Her greatest loves, however, were undoubtedly her grandchildren.
Tonya was predeceased by her brothers, William McKinley Reese and Phillip Reese.
She is survived by her children, Terral Ward and Tonya (Scotty) Murphy, seven grandchildren, Kaleb (Zoey) Ward, Nathan Murphy, Isaiah Ward, Alivia Ward, Conrad Murphy, Braelyn Ward, and Ezekiel Murphy, one great-grandchild, Kamdyn Ward, her siblings, Marlene Brown, Marilyn King, Michael Reese, Timothy Reese, and Darla Kizzee, a number of nieces and nephews, and innumerable friends.
The family will be holding a private celebration of life to honor Tonya.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her honor to Lymphoma Research Foundation or The Education Trust.