Decorated veteran dies
Published 10:49 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Robert Hall Ballard, 93, a decorated World War II veteran and survivor of the Battle of Bulge, died on May 7.
He was an avid boater, with perhaps his family’s most visible legacy — the Ballard Clubhouse — serving as a visual landmark to boaters and motorists crossing the Godwin Bridge in North Suffolk for decades.
But most importantly, he was a family man with a rich sense of humor and willingness to give back to his community, according to his family.
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“He was always working, always had a job to do,” said granddaughter Terin Vivian. “He was always willing to teach people how to do a job more efficiently.”
His granddaughters recall Ballard, who owned rental properties, taking them with him while he rewired houses and worked on plumbing projects.
“When it came to building houses, he knew everything,” granddaughter Alina Vivian said.
Ballard’s father, Lonnie Ballard, built the original Ballard’s Clubhouse in the Nansemond River in 1931. Although it survived more than 70 years, the cottage has been rebuilt twice by other owners since Hurricane Isabel destroyed it the first time in 2003.
From the 1940s to the time he turned it over to Nansemond River Power Squadron around 2000, Ballard maintained the structure, said daughter Nancy Ballard.
Growing up, his grandchildren remember spending an occasional week or long weekend on the Nansemond River, said Terin Vivian. It wasn’t uncommon for earlier generations of her family to stay out there for a month at a time during the summer.
Ballard, who was a member of the Nansemond River Power Squadron for 53 years, loved spending time on the water and taught his grandchildren to crab.
On one trip on the Nansemond River, when the bridge tender did not open the draw at the former Kings Highway Bridge after multiple radio calls and honking, Ballard took things into his own hands.
According to his family, Ballard docked his boat and climbed up the tower and found the bridge tender asleep.
Over the years, Ballard shared his experiences as a young solider during World War II.
During the Battle of the Bulge, he was directed to hold the line at all costs. When his unit ran out of ammunition, he ordered his men to bury themselves in the snow and not to move. Germans were literally walking over them, according to Ballard’s family. Two days later, when U.S. troops came looking for his unit, Ballard was told that his unit was one of the only ones to hold the line as instructed.
He received a Bronze Star for this act of heroism.
He never received a second Bronze Star that was to be issued him because he refused to leave his men fighting on the front line while he went to accept the award, according to his family.
That award stemmed for an incident in late 1944 or early 1945, when Ballard was in a company under fire by the Germans. Ballard volunteered to act as spotter to determine where the shots were coming from.
Ballard shimmied up a pine tree using telephone spikes and started directing fire for U.S. troops until he came under German fire. According to his family, U.S. troops took out four machine gun nests using Ballard’s information.
Ballard’s funeral will be 11 a.m. May 12 at Main Street United Methodist Church.