Husband, father, grandfather, veteran, draftsman, extraordinary man. Born Dec. 30, 1924, in Toronto. Died July 26, 2011, in Toronto of an age-related illness, at 86.
Frank Ball thought himself an ordinary guy.
He was born to Margaret and Frank Ball in their west-end Toronto living room. His twin didn’t make it, but Frank became a close brother to his older sister, Peggy.
As a boy, Frank rode his bike along with his dog, King, and played street and ice hockey. He suffered through grade school and a bit of high school. In the 1940s, he enlisted to fight in the Second World War (exaggerating his age to do so). A member of the Royal Canadian Artillery, 2nd Anti-Tank, he fought in Normandy and in the liberation of the Netherlands, including the bloody Battle of the Scheldt.
Only 20 at war’s end, Frank never glorified war for the rest of his life. Only in the past 10 years, as he slowly opened up about his experiences, did we learn how it haunted him day and night.
Coming home, he married the girl around the corner, Joan Newton, in 1946. They raised five children: Stephen, Ann, Jane, Joan and Susan.
In the 1950s, Frank worked as a draftsman on the Yonge Street subway (his father was a streetcar driver). Eventually, he became chief draftsman for Etobicoke. He was a fiercely protective manager who enjoyed a tall story, a good excuse, a big cigar and a break with the ladies. Frank hired a woman in the sixties – a first.
During these years, Frank was a fundraiser who helped build two Etobicoke hospitals, a founding member of St. Wilfrid’s Church and a sign captain for numerous political candidates. He valiantly led family camping trips across North America, driving a station wagon up narrow mountain passes while keeping a semblance of order as five children alternately wondered when we would get there.
Most of all, he was an extraordinary father. As Joan came to struggle with multiple sclerosis, passing away in 1999 at 73, he stood as the family’s constant. Whether throwing the kids, rapid fire, into a lake or ocean on summer vacations, rousing them from their beds by playing loud Scottish tattoos, advising heartbroken teens of all the fishes in the sea or, later, providing loonies and lollipops for seven grandchildren, he expressed his wonder and joy in daily life with his quirky humour. Frank loved their pet hamsters, fishes, turtles, birds, spaniel, dachshund and, most particularly, his silly cats.
Even over the past long year, when illness forced him to sell his condo and move into a health centre, the family enjoyed a few laughs. Frank told his nurses how good they looked, fumed at daily headlines and looked forward to weekend visits. We miss and love him and will never forget his understated combination of courage, compassion, kindness and strength.
No ordinary guy, Frank.
Ann Ball is Frank’s daughter.