Deerfield, MA — Harriet Hulbert Ball, known as Hattie, died peacefully on October 13, 2021, at the age of 98. Hattie proclaimed, "Be glad for me. I had a great ride!"
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Hattie has sallied forth as she wished, surrounded by her family and buoyed by the support of friends. She spent her final weeks in Hospice care, and out of pain, at the Sunderland home of her grandson's family, embraced by love and wrap-around TLC. What an immense blessing! (One kept from far too many, particularly during Covid). In the cheerful company of chickens, kitties and children, Hattie relished tasty food, and enjoyed a few local road trips, games of rummy and Scrabble and an ongoing hootenanny of old folk and camp songs. Hattie was astonished and delighted by a daily deluge of loving messages and cards from friends.
Hattie was born in June 1923 to Chauncey and Carol Gulick Hulbert of Brookline, Massachusetts. The family lived in Brookline and spent time each year at summer camp in Fairlee VT, where her grandparents had founded the Aloha Camps in 1905, and her own parents founded Camp Lanakila for boys in 1922. Hattie excelled at horse-back riding, canoeing and mountain tripping as a camper, achieving the highest ranks at Aloha.
Over the years Hattie sold many bags of delicious pecans, fundraising for Smith College scholarships. She attended Smith College on scholarship herself, class of 1944. She graduated early in December 1943 to serve her country working at the Pentagon as a Military Intelligence Research Analyst. In order to protect the highly classified information in the "Top Secret Ultra" War Department cables she condensed daily, Harriet seemed to have brainwashed herself to forget it each evening upon descending the stairs from her office in the Pentagon.
At age 16, an encounter with a fortune teller correctly forecast Hattie's marriage to "a man you have already met, and his initials are P.B." She had indeed met Phil Ball of Deerfield three years prior. She was a skinny 13-year-old in a group of giggling Aloha campers, drying dishes with a hunk of an AMC hutman in the kitchen of Greenleaf Hut on Mount Lafayette. Hattie's words: "We are flattered beyond belief because there supervising us is this gorgeous college man of 18 snapping a wet dishtowel at our legs! His name is duly recorded in my precious diary: 'Phil Ball'."
Ten years later, after World War II, they reconnected through Hattie's Smith college friends. A pleasant-sounding young man on the phone turned a fairy tale from her diary into a real person. "This is Phil Ball from Lafayette and I want to wash dishes with you!" They married in 1948.
Hattie and Phil forged a rich life together working and volunteering in Franklin County. They built their home in Old Deerfield from plans advertised in Parents' Magazine and purchased from Sears & Roebuck. In this house they raised three children. Mom hosted whole class scavenger hunt birthday parties; we counted and rolled all the grammar school trick-or-treat for UNICEF pennies on our dining room table. Phil and Hattie established and ran the Mohawk Trail Skiway, a local rope-tow hill for families, open weekends, just a little way up Route 2 from town. They danced in the Franklin County Public Hospital Follies, they shingled, painted, and helped bring Camp Kiwanee into reality. They biked, paddled, and climbed mountains together, including Rainier, Kilimanjaro, and closer to home, many of the White Mountains.
Hattie earned a Master of Education degree from UMass Amherst, then taught reading at Eaglebrook and English at Stoneleigh-Burnham schools. Later there were stints as a mentor at Bement and in the library at Deerfield Academy. For more than a decade she showed up weekly to support inmates one-on-one at the Franklin County Jail as a volunteer with the Decisions Thresholds program. She committed to the program goal: to prevent recidivism through encouraging people and teaching thoughtful decision making skills. In her second career, as a realtor at Massamont and Lighthouse, she helped people buy and sell their houses.
Always with a sweater in the works, Hattie built 40-year friendships over book discussions with the "Jugglers," sang in the Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus, read plays with the Drama Club, volunteered as a "pink lady" in the hospital gift shop, and continued spending summers being outdoors and making herself useful at the camps in Fairlee, Vermont. Blue ribbons for Hattie Ball's knitting and handwork were almost as frequent as those for Clarkdale apples at the Franklin County Fair. See her cable-knitting in the photo?
Life changed abruptly in 1975. Shortly after becoming the District Court judge in Greenfield, Phil died suddenly at age 56. Hattie lived on. Always physically and mentally active and fiercely independent, she persevered, aiming to include fun and joy, adventure, learning and service. She continued working, volunteering, traveling, making friends and mowing the lawn. With a wink, Hattie subtly subverted social conventions. She lived in the Old Deerfield house for a total of 57 years.
In her annual Christmas "poems," Hattie documented zip-lining at 86, hiking up to Aloha's Bluff at 93, volunteering at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital at 94, and paddle-board riding at 95. She spent her final 12 years as an active resident at Rockridge Retirement Community in Northampton, gardening, welcoming her neighbors, walking in the woods, hiking with the Champagne Hikers (until she broke her pelvis,) singing, and traveling, including some Sunday drives back to Old Deerfield and the Brick Church community. It took a shattered hip two and a half years ago to slow Hattie down. No more hiking but she still played bridge and did crossword and Sudoku puzzles in pen. Lately, competitive Scrabble evolved into a delightful cooperative project. Friendship now paramount, not score.
Hattie made and kept friends her whole life, friends of all ages. She was blown away by a blizzard of cards for her 98th birthday in June, and again in her Hospice weeks. She loved that flood of cards, letters, stories, poems, and songs, all manner of kind thoughts and appreciative words, sent to her by mail, by computer, and also those arriving on the wind. Hattie was both amused and deeply honored by the respect and affection expressed. Hattie was astounded to learn of her impact.
Predeceased in 1975 by her husband, Philip Hosmer Ball, Jr., Hattie is survived by her daughters, Carol Ball, and her wife Randie Handleman of Greenfield; Shel Ball, and her partner Gary Seldon of Greenfield; her son Philip H. Ball III, aka Terry, and his wife, Katia Ball of Westfield; grandson Abel Silva III, his partner Linnea Graziano, and great grandson Abel IV of South Hadley; and grandson Philip Ball Silva, his wife Jessica Corwin, and great grandchildren Josephine and Peter Silva of Sunderland.
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We hope to gather for a Celebration of Hattie Ball's Life in Old Deerfield next year, in safer Covid times.
If you wish to contribute in honor of Hattie, consider volunteering in or making a memorial donation to a cause that matters to you, or to:
• Pioneer Valley Hospice and Palliative Care, 329 Conway Street #2, Greenfield, MA 01301
• The Aloha Foundation, 2968 Lake Morey Road, Fairlee VT 05054
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Or, take somebody out for a strawberry milkshake in Hattie's honor