Bessie Rice Ball (1923 - 2013)

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Bessie Rice Ball


Bessie Rice Ball, 89, a longtime resident of Spartanburg, passed away late on Saturday, August 16, 2013. An acclaimed pianist, church leader, and South Carolina native, she and her late husband, Dr. William L. Ball, Jr., were instrumental in the growth and development of three church congregations, numerous community support groups and church affiliated associations across the Upstate over five decades.

At the end of WWII, the young Bessie Rice while pursuing a classical piano career in New York City, joined a USO Tour of the Pacific Theater, where she performed for military personnel following the Japanese surrender. Her performances in the Philippines, Japan, and at U. S. military installations across the region were widely promoted by the USO and were very popular among the men and women of the armed forces at the time. When she returned from overseas, she met and married former Navy Chaplain William L. "Billy" Ball in her hometown of Belton, S.C., where he was pastor of the First Baptist Church until 1951. She then moved with her husband to the Oakland Baptist Church in Rock Hill, where he served as the first minister of a newly established congregation.

In January 1960, the couple moved to Spartanburg when Dr. Ball was called to the newly founded Fernwood Baptist Church on Spartanburg's east side. As a pastor's wife, Mrs. Ball applied her wide-ranging talents at the keyboard to church and civic events over many years, and was active in the Music Club of Spartanburg, serving on the Board of Directors of the Music Foundation of Spartanburg, and the Charles Lea Center, along with numerous other volunteer organizations. She continued to perform up until the final year of her life, entertaining her fellow residents at the Summit Hills Retirement Community on numerous occasions. Her musical legacy is sustained to this day by her son, David Ball, whose career in country music as a songwriter and singer in Nashville has recently been recognized on the Spartanburg Music Trail.

Bessie Rice Ball was born on September 16, 1923, in Belton, S.C., one of six children of Enoch Blair Rice, Sr. and Mozelle Alderman Rice. Her father was the founder and operator of Blair Mills, a longtime textile concern in Belton. Following graduation from Belton High School, she attended Converse College where she majored in music and piano performance, graduating in 1944. She continued her studies in New York up until the time she was recruited to join the USO tour as a featured performer in a traveling musical revue. In 1989, she was the recipient of the Converse College Alumna of the Year award.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Ball was admired for her generosity, kindness and respect for others in all walks of life. Her spirited nature, good humor under all circumstances, and strong faith were a constant source of strength and inspiration to her family and friends.

She is survived by her five children: William L. Ball, III (Patricia) of Alexandria, Virginia; Blair Terrell Ball (Terrie) of Spartanburg, David Alderman Ball (Jan) of Franklin, Tennessee, Joel Drake Ball of Spartanburg, and Betsy Rice Ball of Siesta Key, Florida; seven grandchildren, Sarah Ball Moore, Clare Ball Belmont, Rebecca Susan Ball, Mary Wells Ball, William Alexander Ball, Audrey Hampton Ball and Maggie Blair Felder; and one great-granddaughter, Madeleine Louise Belmont; and one sister, Martha Rice McCuen of Belton. She was predeceased by two brothers, Rex Alderman Rice and E. Blair Rice, and two sisters, Sadie Rice Maynard and Mozelle Rice Marshall, all of Belton.

Visitation will be held from 6:00 to 8:00 PM on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Floyd's Greenlawn Chapel, 2075 East Main Street, Spartanburg, S.C. 29307. Funeral services will be held at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, at Fernwood Baptist Church, conducted by the Rev. Dr. Dean Allen and the Rev. Dr. Lisa Wimberly Allen. Burial will be in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial gifts be forwarded to Fernwood Baptist Church, 200 Fernwood Drive, Spartanburg, S.C. 29307; Connie Maxwell Children's Home, P.O. Box 1178, Greenwood, S.C. 29648; Petrie School of Music, Converse College, 580 E. Main Street, Spartanburg, S.C. 29302; or The Charles Lea Center Foundation, 195 Burdette Street, Spartanburg, S.C. 29307.

An online guest register is available at

Floyd's Greenlawn Chapel

Funeral Home
Floyd Mortuary - Greenlawn Chapel
2075 East Main Street
Spartanburg, SC 29307
(864) 582-5455
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Published in The Greenville News on Aug. 19, 2013
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