Yale '62 - Obituaries - Andrew D. Ball

Andrew D. Ball

Born: February 10, 1940
Died: June 10, 2000

Andy Ball was born in New York City and graduated from Riverdale Country School before attending Yale. A political science major, he was a member of Timothy Dwight. He was a ranking scholar and on the Dean's List and graduated Magna Cum Laude. He was a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the Ivy Network and the Criterion Board.

Andy graduated from Harvard Law School in 1965 and then worked at law firms in New York and Washington before establishing, in 1980, his own law practice in Rockville, Maryland. He specialized in business, tax, and trust/estate law, working as a very busy and successful solo practitioner until he died.

His death elicited a striking outpouring of emotion from his clients, who described in dozens of letters and phone calls their loyalty to him and their dependence on him. Some stressed his intellect and probity. Others were struck by his compassion. One client recalled that he never laughed at her concerns. "He was so incredibly thoughtful," said another. "No, that's not all. I just can't think of the word."

He is survived by his widow, Judith Ball, who lives in Potomac, Maryland; and two sons, Jonathan, 29, a lawyer and an urban planner; and Jeffrey, 34, a newspaper reporter with the Wall Street Journal in Detroit, who contributed to his father's obituary. He did not live to see the birth of his grandchild, Jeffrey's daughter Ella, who was born in December 2001.

Andy died at the age of 60 by self-inflicted wound following a months-long bout with depression. It was a disease that ran in his family; his own father died by suicide at approximately the same age. His death came as an absolute shock to those who knew him, because it was not until the last few months of his life that his demons began to overtake him. Until then, he had lived life with relish and infecting all with his zest.

Son Jeffrey writes, "Dad got the greatest enjoyment out of the simplest things. He loved lolling on the beach, eating steamed clams, and puttering around the house where he and my mom spent much of every summer in Wellfleet, on Cape Cod. He loved lounging around on Sunday mornings in his blue terry cloth bathrobe listening to a CD of Art Tatum playing the piano. He loved good wine, fresh oatmeal cookies, and little wooden boxes built by a craftsman in Maine. He loved Yale and the lifelong friends he made there. More than anything, he loved his family."

"He took great pleasure in gadgets. When he was with friends and family - which is to say when he was having the most fun - he almost always had a camera with him. The result is that he left us with a body of work that lets us see the world through his lens. His subjects almost always were people, his eye for detail was exquisite, and his images bubbled over with warmth."

"My favorite is a black and white close-up of my brother getting his first haircut as a lone tear trickles out of his left eye and down his cheek. Then there's what I'll call the 'Wellfleet Firehouse Series': Every summer for several years while Jonathan and I were growing up, my dad would take us down to the fire station in town, get the firefighters to let us each put on a helmet in front of the big red truck, and snap a shot while we were standing beside each other, giggling in our bathing suits still wet from the beach."

"My dad was as adroit with words as he was with pictures. He was fascinated by language, and he knew how to use it. Along with the intellectual challenge, it was the writing that I think my dad most enjoyed about the practice of law. In less skilled hands, legal writing can get pretty stuffy and incomprehensible. When he was at the keyboard, it was elegant, understandable, and persuasive."

"But it's his extracurricular writing that offers the best window into the man. To my knowledge, except to his immediate family, he didn't write often about himself. One exception was the essay he wrote 15 years ago for the Class of 1962's 25th reunion book. It was, like its author, a wonderfully balanced mix of humor and introspection."

Listen, first, to what he said about his wife, my mom: 'She has been an enormous influence on my life and a source of growth and support. She brought to me the belated realization, while I sometimes kicked and screamed but more often sulked, that women, or maybe just some wives, really did deserve the vote and do have worthwhile opinions. Luckily for me my post-Neanderthal orientation came about early enough in our marriage for us to go on with other developments.'"

"He went on, as he always did, to say wonderful things about Jonathan and me. And then he turned himself to the subject of the next phase of his life. 'I know the next 25 years will bring continued professional and personal challenges,' he wrote. 'I hope to go beyond concern for professional expertise, responsibility, accountability, parenting and making it. Life's rhythm will not change, I know and trust, but there may be more freedom to contemplate what to do with freedom. The fear that one may come up empty handed seems to keep many of us closer to the grindstone than we really have to be. One of the results of the education we were blessed to receive - or at least be exposed to - should be that we contribute something, hopefully beyond what we do in our trade and even our family. I'm searching.'"

"My father still was searching when he died. It was a tragedy of his life that his years were so few. But those years also were incredibly full. And so, in the arithmetic that really matters, my father led a long life indeed."