Don Ball, founder of Ball Homes and a major Lexington philanthropist, died Friday. He was 81.
Ball helped reshape lives in Lexington and other Central Kentucky communities in 1993 with the founding of the Hope Center, which develops programs to address the underlying causes of homelessness, including addiction.
“In countless ways, Don Ball’s vision and dedication propelled the Hope Center to grow and thrive. In fact, the Hope Center probably would have had to close its doors decades ago if not for Don Ball,” said Cecil Dunn, executive director. “His life’s work was building houses. His life’s passion and purpose were helping others – particularly those who were desperately in need of a second chance. …Don Ball was a builder of homes. He was a rebuilder of hope and a rebuilder of lives. His contributions will be felt for generations to come.”
With his wife, Mira, Don Ball created Ball Homes in 1959, which has built thousands of Kentucky homes, according to the companies web site. Still a family-owned business now in the hands of the second generation, Ball Homes helped to create the neighborhoods of Masterson Station in Lexington, Brannon Oaks in Nicholasville, The Landing at Pleasant Valley in Georgetown, and Cedar Ridge and Rose Ridge in Versailles as well as many others across the area. In recent years the company expanded to Louisville and to Tennessee and is now ranked as one of the top 100 builders in the country.
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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin tweeted on Friday night: “Kentucky has lost a business titan, successful innovator and generous supporter of the downtrodden, especially those looking for a second chance in life… Don Ball will be missed by many…”
Don Ball was a modern day Horatio Alger. Truly the self-made man. Yet he never lost the common touch and a heart for those less fortunate.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray
In 2016, UK awarded the Balls with honorary doctorates of humane letters for extraordinary contributions to philanthropy, human development, education, or societal well-being.
“Don Ball spent his life quietly and steadfastly committed to building and re-building foundations – foundations of hope and healing, service and faith, business and education,” University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said in a statement. “Don, a proud UK alum, and Mira, who chaired our Board of Trustees, would never seek the spotlight of acclaim and attention. They only cared about people and getting things done on behalf of those in need and for the Commonwealth. The result is a set of enduring foundations, built in service to others.”
A member of the Kentucky General Assembly in the 1960s, Don Ball also served as co-chair of the Recovery Kentucky Task Force, which established a network of 17 residential recovery centers across the Commonwealth based on the Hope Center that Ball founded.
“In public service, business, and philanthropy, Don and his wife Mira touched countless lives with their kindness and generosity,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “Although Don always put his state and country first, he was truly a founding father of the modern Republican Party of Kentucky. His talents were only matched by his passion for serving those in need, especially in Central Kentucky.”
A ceremonial ribbon cutting in 2008 marked the opening of the Hope Center’s George Privett Recovery Center. From left, Luther Deaton of Central Bank, Myra and Don Ball of Ball Homes, Bonnie Quantrell, Hope Center Chair Randy Breeding, Gov. Steve Beshear and Cecil Dunn, the Hope Center’s executive director.
Tom Eblen firstname.lastname@example.org
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said Ball will be greatly missed. “He helped countless Kentuckians launch their careers in either business or politics, including myself.”
Don and Mira Ball were honored with many awards for their community service, including the BUILDER Magazine and Hearthstone with a national award for his long-term community service. In 2000, both Don and Mira Ball were honored with the Optimist Cup Award, and in 2004 with the A.B. “Happy” Chandler Foundation’s Kentuckian Award. In 2011, Don and Mira Ball were honored to be the recipients of the W.T. Young Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. This award recognizes persons who have achieved unparalleled success in business and who have also made significant other contributions to the public well-being in Lexington and the state of Kentucky.
“Don Ball was a modern day Horatio Alger. Truly the self-made man,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. “Yet he never lost the common touch and a heart for those less fortunate.”
Ball Homes and the Ball family are long-time supporters of Habitat for Humanity, the Hope Center, the Alzheimer’s Association, the United Way, KET, the Salvation Army, the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the University of Kentucky, Junior Achievement, the Junior League Horse Show, and a host of other charity organizations and events, according to the company’s web site.
Recent philanthropic efforts include support of Hoops for Haiti and UK’s Dance Blue marathon to benefit children with cancer and their families, and UK HealthCare’s Overture to Healing Lexington Philharmonic concert benefit. In 2009, Ball Homes sponsored the first annual Ball Homes Night of Hope, a benefit for Lexington’s Hope Center.
The Home Builder Association of Lexington inducted Don and Mira Ball, the founders of Ball Homes in to it Hall of Fame in 2012.
1n 2012, co-founders Don and Mira Ball were inducted into the Home Builders Association of Lexington’s Hall of Fame in recognition of service to the state of Kentucky and the homebuilding community.
The Balls also founded Donamire Farm, a picturesque Thoroughbred horse farm in Lexington that became the site of many charity events.
Don Ball is survived by his wife, Mira; sons Ray and Mike and daughter Lisa Ball. Funeral arrangements are pending under the direction of Milward Funeral Directors.
Don Ball, stands in the training barn Feb. 1, 2000 where some scenes from “Simpatico” were filmed at his Donamire Farm.
MARK CORNELISON LEXINGTON HERALD LEADER
Janet Patton: 859-231-3264, @janetpattonhl