Gwendolyn Mary Ball slipped away peacefully at home on March 18, 2018, surrounded by friends and family, after a brief illness. She was 91 years old.
Gwen was born March 4, 1927, in Johnston, Vermont, to Albert Harry Stiles and Harriet Mildred (Collins) Stiles. She grew up in Burlington, Vermont, and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1948 with a B.S. in Commerce and Economics. In the fall of 1948 she moved to Schenectady, New York, where she worked for General Electric at Knolls Atomic Power Lab as a secretary, holding a “Q” (Secret) security clearance, as the lab was doing classified work on nuclear-powered submarines.
On May 23, 1953, Gwen married Richard Ball, a GE engineer. They lived in Alplaus, New York. As was the custom at the time, Gwen quit work a few months before their first child, Nancy Susan, was born. In the fall of 1955 Richard and Gwen moved to Boulder, Colorado, where their second and third children, Gary Holmes and Janet Mary, were born. In 1961, the family moved into a house designed by a local architect who, along with his wife, would become lifelong family friends. After Richard’s death in 2011, Gwen continued to reside at their home, maintaining the independent lifestyle that she favored.
Although Gwen once described herself as a “1950s housewife,” she was much more than that; intelligent and civic-minded, she was active in the League of Women Voters, volunteered for the YWCA and other organizations, and, once the children were grown, worked as a clerk-typist at the Boulder Public Library, where she made several lasting friends. From 1980 to 1987 she took on the important role of accountant/CFO for Richard’s aircraft instrument company, Ball Variometers. (She felt a sense of relief when the company moved out of the garage and into an office park, as her freezer and oven at home were often filled with instruments that were being temperature-tested.) After retirement they were able to enjoy travel to many foreign and domestic destinations, both as a couple and with friends.
Gwen kept physically as well as mentally active. She enjoyed hiking in the nearby parks and nature preserves. Her favorite hiking destination was Rocky Mountain National Park, which she came to love after a rocky (as it were) start. One fall day in 1955, Richard took Gwen up to the mountains to see the yellow aspen trees. Having grown up with the spectacular fall foliage of New England, she took one look at the monochromatic aspen, said “Is that it?”, and went home, bitterly disappointed. However, over the years she came to revere the Rockies, becoming an expert on Colorado wildflowers and occasionally leading wildflower-viewing trips as a volunteer.
In her later years Gwen lost much of her vision to macular degeneration, but she continued her forays into the mountains into her 90s, thanks in large part to her helper Thomas Dow, who drove her on “adventures” once a week; and her children and friends, who took her on outings whenever they could. Everyone who spent time with Gwen enjoyed her knowledge of local history, her passion for nature, and her dry wit.
Gwen is survived by her children Erfert (née Nancy) Fenton, Gary Ball, and Janet Dueñas; her daughter-in-law Layhoon Ball; her grandchildren Angelique Dueñas, Rick Dueñas, and Avianca Dueñas; her sister-in-law Frances Stiles; and her niece and nephews Patricia Camplair, Peter Stiles, and David Stiles and their spouses.
A memorial service will be held in the Boulder Creek Room of the Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, on Saturday, April 21, from 4 to 6 p.m.