May 12, 1924-March 28
Perry Ball, adventurer, role model, man of God, and “Pa” to countless people around the world, died March 28, five months after the death of Lois, his beloved wife of 74 years. Perry was 97. He died at his apartment in Glendale, Ariz., with his four children at his side. On this final ride, his last words were, “Pull the cinch tight.”
Made sense for this traveler, seeker — and somewhat rascal.
Born in Huntsville, Texas, on May 12, 1924, from his earliest days, Perry loved horses and everything outdoors. He rode into his 90s, winning first place in a team sorting competition in Wickenburg, Ariz., where Perry and Lois moved after Perry retired from a long medical practice in Durango and, later, in Pagosa Springs, Colo.
In final guidance to his children, Perry said that the unshakable faith that guided his second half of life had been an “exciting ride,” with the Bible as the owner’s manual to guide them “back to the trail.”
Perry was always up for adventure, and Lois, who wanted nothing more than to stay put, followed. As newlyweds, they left roots in Texas for the wilds of Durango, Colo. Later, they left the house they remodeled in town for the wilds of a country ranch. Over the years, they left the country to serve on international medical missions and eventually left Colorado for the more sedate wilds of retirement in Arizona.
Perry loved deeply and was dearly loved. He always had an open door. He earned the nickname “Pa” when he and Lois through the 1970s invited college students into their home to live and grow in their Christian faith. Later, they extended their hospitality around the world (and fulfilled a life-long dream to be a medical missionary) on missions with Mercy Ships, a medical ministry of Youth With a Mission.
Even in his frailty during his last months, Perry touched an ever-widening circle of people, his apartment door always open with invitation. He said, “The Lord isn’t done with me yet,” and in his courage and complete faith in God, even though he could no longer do outreach, he ministered a sense of kindness, positivity and love to all who came in contact with him, as was attested by the many comments and condolences family received from his caregivers and people he encountered at his assisted living community.
Perry modeled a life of service. An Eagle Scout as a teen, wherever he lived throughout his life, he continued his service and leadership on boards and committees for fiestas, hospitals, churches, 4-H, the Colorado State Board of Agriculture, horse races and county fairs. Yet he was never too busy to stop and talk to people on the street,or to rise early to cook breakfast for one of his children leaving early for an out-of-town sporting event.
As one friend remembers, “Never afraid to admit his lack of knowledge, Perry always had something useful to contribute. Often silent for long periods, when he spoke in his quiet, slow Texas-tinged voice, folks listened. They listened because his words carried the grace and mercy of a man who was truly grateful for the blessings and mercy given to him. And, a man always mindful of his own clay feet.”
During WWII, Perry attended medical school on an Army grant at the University of Texas in Galveston, where he met Lois, a nursing student. Their first date was a late swim at the beach, after which Lois said Perry liked her white swimming suit,and she liked his Gregory Peck eyes. They married in 1947 and in 1958 settled with their four children in Durango, where Perry opened a general medical practice. Over his career, he delivered hundreds of babies through several generations of families, many of whom would stop him years later to say, “You delivered me,” which always drew his characteristic chuckle. In his leisure time, Perry took his family hunting, fishing and on mule pack trips. The children share guffaws over harrowing tales of those pack trips.
Perry continued sharing adventures with grandchildren: church trips, motor home camping, road trips, raft trips, fishing outings, Fourth of July fireworks, gardening, saunas, mule rides, hikes, picnics, home-cooked meals, early-morning Bible studies. He taught financial skills by paying grandchildren a penny for every pea they picked out of his acre-large garden. He lent an ear and shared his laugh.
“Perry lived his life in the knowledge he was the son of and in the service of the living God,” a friend remembers. “By doing rather than saying, he modeled how to walk humbly with our God. Perry was a man who desired more than anything to be faithful to the truth given him.”
Perry was preceded in death by his wife, Lois, his mother, father and sister, and daughter-in-law Cynthia Ball. His younger brother, Lewis Ball, died in Texas 10 days after Perry. Perry is survived by daughter Amy Malick (Larry), sons Bill Ball (Kate Errett), David Ball and Joe Ball, grandchildren Sara Wood Hebisch, Matt and Andy Wood, Hannah Mancini, Jesse Ball, Lindsay Errett-Cohen, Emma and Eddie Ball, Amberlyn Lake, Chelsilyn Shalamon, and Shandilyn Ball, 13 great-grandchildren, and his dog, Josie.
The family will gather this summer for a memorial for Lois and Perry. Contributions can be made to Rancho Santa Marta (in Mexico, where Lois and Perry made led many mission trips), Bethesda Teaching Ministry, P.O. Box 20028, El Cajon, CA 92021-0900.