Dorothy Ward, 81, of Phoenixville, a retired special-education teacher and hospital chaplain, died Dec. 11 of complications from Guillain–Barré syndrome, a muscular disease, at Manor Care in King of Prussia.

For 10 years, until retiring in 1999, Mrs. Ward was certified staff chaplain at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, assigned to the trauma division. One or two days a week she flew aboard PennStar helicopters, which transport critical-care patients and provide on-the-scene services at accident sites. Her job was to secure personal information from patients and to comfort and support them and family members at the scene.

Previously, she had been a special-education teacher at Lower Merion High School.

Mrs. Ward grew up with 13 older siblings in Wayne. At 16, she married John Ward. The couple shared a last name.

Before their children were born, Mrs. Ward had a variety of jobs including selling cosmetics on a cruise ship and operating a beauty salon in Wayne.

She eventually earned a GED and in 1969, she opened a preschool in Bryn Mawr after earning a diploma from the Assumption Montessori Training Center in Philadelphia. In the 1970s, she earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education from St. Joseph's University and special-education certification from Pennsylvania State University.

She taught at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor and at Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia before joining the Lower Merion faculty in 1976.

Mrs. Ward visited the Soviet Union in 1978 on a teacher exchange program and spent time on a Hopi Indian reservation in New Mexico. She lived in France for a brief time in the early 1970s because she wanted her children to experience another culture, said her son, Mark.

Mrs. Ward, a widow since 1972, was briefly a member of the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary, an order of nuns. She had a deep faith, said her daughter, Mandy Gennaro.

In addition to her son and daughter, Mrs. Ward is survived by a sister and two grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Katherine of Siena Church, 104 St. Aberdeen Ave., Wayne, Pa. 19087. Friends may call from 9 a.m. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.

Memorial donations may be made to the church, where Mrs. Ward was a cantor and lector.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.