AN ODE TO HADSEL BALL - "HIS MUSIC WILL NEVER STOP PLAYING"

(08/30/1999)

By David Hedges

I met Hadsel briefly years ago while living in Spencer, but I never got to know him. I regret that now, since so many of my friends have spoken of this life, in death. Jack Garrett, of Denbigh-Garrett Ford in Spencer, stopped by a few evenings ago after visiting him at Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center. He, like many others, talked of the nature of the man who gave so much of himself. "You'd better go and visit him," he said. I didn't make it.

In this weeks Time-Record/Roane County Reporter, publisher DAVID HEDGES has written that his music will never stop playing: "Some teachers leave a lasting impression on their students. Mr. Ball was one of those.

Hadsel Ball spent 42 years of his life teaching music to kids, including the last 34 at Spencer Elementary/Junior High. He not only loved music, but he loved teaching. Imparting knowledge was his life's calling and he did it well. Mr. Ball would often use music to get across other subjects. He would turn a song into a history lesson, or any other topic he could relate it to in order to stimulate young minds.

If students were slow to answer, he would offer a nickel or a carton of chocolate milk from the milk machine outside his classroom. That would get hands going up quickly. Even if you didn't know the answer, the promise of some chocolate milk was a good reason to at least guess.

On one occasion, while we were learning the song, "Dixie," and discussing the Civil War, Mr. Ball asked if anyone knew who Jeff Davis was. One of my classmates, whose last name was Davis, quickly raised his hand. Mr. Ball called upon the child who obviously knew the answer. When the boy said "my brother," Mr. Ball just grinned. He knew the boy was serious. I think he gave him a nickel for a carton of chocolate milk, even though that wasn't the answer he wanted.

Whenever we came across any Latin words in studying our music, Mr. Ball would call upon me to tell the rest of the class what they meant. As one of probably ten Catholics in school, he was sure I knew the answer. I guess he didn't know they stopped saying the Mass in Latin when I was about four years old and I had no idea what any Latin words meant. Mr. Ball was the kind of teacher you hated to disappoint, but I couldn't decipher any Latin. In fact, it was a long time before I even understood why he always called on me to answer those questions.

One of his former students went on to become a music teacher himself. Ed Vineyard recalls that Mr. Ball always produced one of the top junior high bands in the state, earning superior ratings year after year. He was also a fine pianist, and loved classical music. Mr. Ball was offered teaching positions at WVU, but he always declined. Instead he stayed on the farm at Stumptown, where he cared for his mother until her death at the age of 98 just a few years ago.

Mr. Ball himself died, just last week, at the age of 82. But the lessons he put into our young minds is still playing, although a bit slower because of the passing of Hadsel Ball." A MEMORIAL SERVICE for Hadsel Ball will be announced this week to be held in Glenville.


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