So, it turns out with Office 2003 SP 3 they have disabled the ability to load or save Word 2.0 format as in: "You are attempting to open a file that was created in an earlier version of microsoft office ... YOU LOSE". "YOU LOSE" actually says some BS goblededock about being prohibited by a registry setting set by the adminstrator. Except, I'm the administrator and I didn't set any registry setting like that, it was the installation of SP 3!
Searching the MS Knowledge Base and the MS Premier Knowledge Base and Google lead me to a bunch of MS KB articles which made my head spin and implied at best I was going to have to add Registry Settings for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and how knows what else but at least confirmed this new behavior was introduced by Office SP 3.
As it turns out Office 2003 SP 3 cannot be uninstalled from Add / Remove programs. Fortunately, System Restore was able to get rid of it. And I am now able to edit the word document I spent most of the last two days working on again.
Now to add Office 2003 SP 3 to the list of forbidden updates on my computer(s).