“Native American” wasn’t just an identity for Tyrell Ware, it was a way of life. He loved the dancing, the powwows, the camaraderie and the heritage that are the fabric of Native American life. “He told me ‘Not everyone can live the way me and you do. People wouldn’t understand it. Somehow me and you do,'” said Roberta Ware, the childhood sweetheart he married. “We’re lucky. We lived in two different worlds: We had our Native American life, and Tyrell could go out in non-Indian world and do very well, too.” Mr. Ware was such an integral part of the local Native American community that his death from cancer on Saturday at the age of 37 has stunned many of those who knew him. “Tyrell, being a traditional Native American man, he was always a leader of my family, and he chose to keep certain things away from me – things that would break my heart,” Roberta Ware said. “He’s just had this for a while, but he kept it from me not to hurt me. But he was a good man, a good father.” Mr. Ware worked a variety of jobs in his life: accountant, machinist, Sedgwick County coordinator for the federally funded Commodity Supplemental Food Program. “Tyrell could do anything – even selling fast food,” his wife said. “Whatever he did, he did it to the fullest.” What he did best of all, perhaps, was dance. Mr. Ware was a top dancer, ranking seventh in the world in Native American “fancy dancing.” He was a world-class teaser, too. “I don’t think Tyrell had an enemy,” said Gerald Harjo, who knew Mr. Ware for most of his life. “Everyone was Tyrell’s friend. He loved to laugh. He would just tease, tease, tease, relentlessly tease you.” That was a Native American sign of approval, Harjo said. Mr. Ware took great pride in passing on his heritage to his children: son Brandon, 16, and daughters, Lynn, 8, Elysia, 6, and Kelci, 3. “His parents, they taught that boy the traditions of the Kiowa ways to the ‘T’,” said Roberta Ware, who is a member of the Ponca tribe. “He has seen that these girls and his son followed them.” They learned to love to dance, just like their father. Mr. Ware loved dancing in competitions, he told The Eagle last year, for “the same reason, probably, people are destined to be race car drivers – they enjoy it, they thrive on it. I thrive on the competition. I thrive on the dance. I love the songs. That’s why I do it.” Mr. Ware compared the competitions to “a marathon, really. We have to dance for three days, and then for four or five minutes we have to put everything into it, all the moves that we’ve got, all the energy that we have, and we can’t let up. You’re so focused, you don’t see anything. And the only thing you’re focused in on is the song.” In its own way, those who knew him said, Mr. Ware’s life was like a song – vibrant, up-beat and lyrical, even when times were tough. “Most all the boys around here called him ‘Uncle,’ ” famliy friend Creighton Moore said, using a term he said is not tossed around lightly in the Native American community. “He’s really going to be missed. Any time we needed help, he was there.” Services for Mr. Ware will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at Culbertson-Smith Mortuary. Stan Finger can be reached at 268-6437.