My conversation with George began when I was still a student at Whitman. With uncharacteristic haste, he interrupted it just short of a half century. Through these many years he served as a model to me and countless others of how we might and why we should strive to be good people. He was keenly aware of human potential and, as with the vegetables in his wonderful garden, nurtured it that it might overcome the weeds of human frailty, of which he was also keenly aware. George brought more gifts than Santa Claus: he gave guidance to students, blessings to marriages, flowers to staff members, zucchini to neighbors, and the reassurance to all of us that our lives mattered and we could make a difference in the lives of others. He was a great supporter of the theatre.
When I was fledgling faculty member, trying to hold on to my part-time job until a full-time one became available, he and Nancy entrusted their young son to a children’s theatre workshop that my students and I organized. Reencountering Larry today, I’m happy to report we seem to have done him no permanent damage. George was our most enthusiastic cheerleader, rising at the opening faculty meeting and roving through every campus office each fall to encourage everyone to buy a season ticket. I was so privileged last spring to produce a play in the George Ball Court at Sherwood Center. George earned his life: with courage and an open mind he embraced everything it had to offer. One of our alums, who recently lost her dear father, reminded me of this passage from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales:
There was a Knight and he a worthy man,
That from the day on which he first began,
To ride abroad, had followed chivalry,
Truth, honor, courtesy and charity….
He might have been describing our own Sir George Ball, riding intrepidly forth on his trusty bicycle. Hail, brave knight of the cheerful countenance.