8 Webster Avenue Hanover New Hampshire

Ernest Ball '43

John T. Bird '77 contributed the following interview of Ernest Ball '43, of Virginia Beach, VA:

June 26th, 2006

Let me tell you about a razor-sharp 86-year-old Zete brother of ours. He's Ernie Ball, Dartmouth '43, and he enjoyed two banner years at Psi Epsilon. During rush back then, sophomore Fall, Ernie and a few of his close friends took the plunge and joined the Zete. At that time you couldn't live in the house sophomore year, but junior year Ernie occupied the strategic room on the second floor all the way down on the right. "Fine view of Fraternity Row!" recalls Ernie, who came to Hanover from Connecticut's Suffield Academy, where he played on the varsity football, swimming and tennis teams. "My dad was Dartmouth Class of '18 - he ran Ball Oyster Company," notes Ernie. "Founded in 1850".

As a youth Ernie made the trip to Hanover many times and had been expecting a full four years on campus when Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7th, 1941. Like many of his classmates, he joined the Naval reserve V 7 program. Thus he was unable to complete the 3 year/2 year program culminating in a joint degree from Dartmouth and Tuck.

With one year of Accounting and other coursework under his belt from Tuck, Ernie found himself at Notre Dame in early 1943 training to be an officer in the U.S. Navy. Destroyer duty in the Mediterranean (Italian Campaign) and the Southern France invasion. This was quickly followed by battleship escort duty heading back to the U.S for transfer to another Destroyer serving in the Pacific. Given the option of either rail or air transport to California for further transport to the USS Spence, Ball chose the train. This ultimately saved his life. From San Francisco, he boarded an LST journeying to Hawaii. After a week there, he again missed connections with his new ship. The Spence sailed for the Philippine invasion one day before his arrival at Manus Island. The Spence was one of the three destroyers which capsized during a typhoon while serving with Adm. Halsey's Task force 38. One officer and 19 men survived out of a crew of 320."Someone up there was looking out for me,"says Ernie. Then it was on to another Destroyer, which saw Radar picket duty during the Okinawa battle. After V-j Day in August, 1945 Ernie saw duty supervising minesweeping operatons along the China coast , even spending Christmas in Shanghai, before returning home in the summer of'46. "By way of Mexico, of course."

When war broke out in Korea in 1950, Ernie answered his nation's call  again rising to the rank of Executive Officer on a destroyer. When he returned to the States a career in port management in Norfolk/ Virginia Beach looked appealing. This led to a new career as port planner with a major international consulting engineering company where he saw duty in some 26 different countries over 35 years. At 86 Ernie remains an expert in the field of port planning, a computer literate, in-demand consultant, who just completed an assignment in Honduras working on a segment of a plan for an alternative to the Panama Canal.

Brother Ball recalls Dartmouth fondly as a small college where he was taught by terrific teachers committed to undergraduate education, a place where he "learned to write well," an advantage he still enjoys over many brilliant engineers who can solve problems but sometimes need help with writing technical reports.

Yet it would be inaccurate to characterize brother Ball as all work and no play on the Hanover Plain. Indeed Ernie is quick to point out that he also"majored in girls". He remembers the Skidmore Road to Saratoga Springs; the spontaneous, quicker jaunt down to Smith; and of course "local girls".

Every Zete has a notable undergraduate memory that jumps to mind and the aptly named Mr. Ball is no different, for junior year his band of courageous Zetes played a game of hardball against a team starring Babe Ruth, who was a family friend of a Zete brother. The box score has been lost to history, but that ballgame must have been an unforgettable thrill for all the 35 brothers belonging to the house at 8 Webster Avenue.

In 1948 our nation mourned the Babe's premature death at 53; but to Ernie Ball, 1948 rings a bell as the year he got married, "to the girlfriend of a double date." Though she is deceased, Ernie's blended family still gets together at least once a year at his home in Virginia Beach for a Ball family reunion, fueled by Ernie's zest for life. Attention Psi Epsilon Zete's: look for many more of these reunions - Brother Ernie Ball '43 plans to live to the year 2017, as calculated by the website deathclock.com. ( Look it up if you are interested.)

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