John Ovard was born with the gift of gab and a natural curiosity about people. It’s a skill he uses regularly during his extensive volunteer work with Friends of Wednesday’s Child and Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake.
“It’s just a good fit for me,” he says. “I like seeing the positive affect on the people I help.”
Ovard, who’s lived in his Lake Highlands home for 45 years, has always sought ways to help people. That’s what led him to become a judge in Dallas. After a decade as a criminal district court judge in the city, he spent the next 11 years with the Texas State Court of Appeals, at which point he was named a presiding judge of the first administration judicial region, where he oversaw judges in 34 counties across northeast Texas for 14 years.
But when he stepped off the bench in 2013, he was already well into his post-retirement career: giving back.
The fact that he’s been confined to a wheelchair or motorized scooter for 55 years gives him a special appreciation for those who struggle with their health. He remembers being a 10-year-old patient at Doctors Hospital, suffering from complications from type one diabetes, which ultimately left him unable to walk.
“It does slow me down, but it doesn’t stop me,” he says. “You get used to it, I just tell people I’m rolling along.”
With his unique perspective of how dull long days stuck in the hospital can be, he delights in brightening other patients’ day with a warm visit. His chatty nature makes him easy to talk to, and his lifelong history in east Dallas has given him plenty of stories to share. Having attended Reinhardt, W.H. Gaston and Bryan Adams, it’s not uncommon for him to find a familiar face on his visits.
“I’ve run into old classmates, friends of the family and all sorts of other people I know,” he laughs. He helps them focus on the positive. “I tell them that love is the greatest thing, it’s all about love.”
It’s become a family affair, with his wife, Jeanie, donating her time in the pharmacy. Don’t be surprised if their five children and seven grandkids follow suit someday.
“We passed down to all of them our concept of love,” he says, adding that volunteering isn’t 100 percent altruistic.
“By helping others, it helps you so much,” he beams.
Learn about volunteer opportunities at Doctors Hospital.