|Norman Don Ball
Photo provided by a family member
Words come easily to those who knew the late Norman D. “Don” Ball.
He was a great and generous friend, they say.
A true family man.
The kind of person who’d give the shirt off his back to a stranger in need.
“Not just his shirt,” said Ron Townsend, 67, a cousin and lifelong friend. “He’d give you his shoes and walk around barefoot.
“The man had a heart as big as the world,” Townsend said. “He’d help anybody.”
The words are easy to find.
What is impossible, Townsend said, is finding any sense in the tragedy that unfolded on Tuesday. Ball, 69, was shot and killed early that morning while he slept at his home on Selden Road in Le Roy.
A neighbor, Kyle Johnson, was charged with murder after an hours-long armed standoff with police.
The suspect, Townsend said, is among the countless number of people indebted to Ball.
It was at least a decade ago, Townsend said, that he was renting a room at Ball’s home, while also working at his construction business.
Johnson, who was married at the time, had trees that needed cutting but no money to pay for the work.
Townsend said Ball called him one winter day, and asked him to help Johnson out.
“Donnie called and asked me to take a chainsaw and cut the trees down,” Townsend said. “We didn’t know what to do with all the wood, so we brought it back and cut it into firewood.
“Shortly after that we had a snowstorm, and Donnie sent me down to plow (Johnson’s) driveway,” Townsend continued. “He didn’t have any money at the time, so his wife made Christmas cookies and we brought them over to Don’s house.”
Townsend said he felt sickened on Tuesday, as he watched television coverage of events on Selden Road.
“I just couldn’t believe it was happening,” Townsend said. “I just don’t get it.”
Tuesday was also difficult for Richard Gross, who got to know Ball when he rented his Selden Road apartment about eight years ago.
“We became real good buddies, doing all kinds of things together,” Gross said.
Gross, 52, rented from Ball for a couple of years and now lives in Wyoming. He said he’d visit Ball whenever he had a chance, most recently about a month ago.
“He was always making jokes, always smiling,” Gross said. “It took a whole lot to upset him.”
Ball was a businessman and an Air Force veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He also owned a mobile home park in the Town of Bergen.
“He was a true family man,” Gross said. “He really loved his family, I can tell you that.”
And his friends.
Gross remembered wanting to buy a Ford diesel truck. He couldn’t afford one at the time.
“Donnie knew I didn’t have the cash right at the moment, but he knew I wanted the truck,” Gross said. “The next thing I know, he goes and buys it for me.
“Is that a friend or what?”
Gross eventually paid Ball for the truck. He’ll never forgot the gesture of kindness.
Which left him feeling at a loss this week.
“I can’t believe somebody would do something like that to Donnie,” Gross said. “The guy did nothing but good for people.
“He didn’t deserve this,” he said. “That’s for damn sure.”