Celebrating 90 years of history, adventures

Civilla Ball, a longtime Yukonite and a resident of Spanish Cove Retirement Village, celebrated her 90th birthday on March 25.
Ball’s birthday celebration wasn’t a disappointment with a quiet brunch with her six children and their spouses followed by a party at the South Yukon Church of Christ with 81 children, children’s children and children’s children’s children, among 70 good friends.
“The day exploded into a happy tumultuous occasion,” said Karen McKeever, one of Ball’s daughters. “Friends brought even more warmth and joy to the celebration.”
Fourteen “innovative” granddaughters decorated the room with tables of pictures and memorabilia that “gave a glimpse into the diverse history and adventures of their grandmother’s life.”
The first table was about her marriage to her husband Dick. Ball originally met Dick when she was a chief nurse with the Red Cross Blood Mobile at either 21 or 22 years old. She met the “Yukon boy” when she drew his blood on one of the eight tables, but the table focused on their marriage. The two Yukonites were invited to New York City to be married on a TV program called “Bride and Groom.” They were married in Radio City on the same stage the Rockettes perform on. Ball was an Oklahoma City school nurse at the time and most schools didn’t have TVs so some of the schools closed for a couple of hours and teachers escorted the children to nearby homes to watch their “beloved” school nurse get married.
The second table was decorated with bright Indian saris because Ball went on a trip to Southern India with Teen Missions International 30 years ago. A life-long friendship was established with a young native pastor, Ebenezer Barbaru, and his family. Years later, Ball returned to Vijayawada to participate in the marriage of her namesake, Civilla Barbaru. In addition to the wedding, where 3,500 Indians were in attendance, she was able to visit the Taj Mahal, Mahatma Gandhi’s tomb and many other historic palaces and wonders of India. The most rewarding aspect of the trip was a personal tour of eight remote villages, approachable only by trails or bike and foot paths.
Another table featured Russia. Ball went on two mission trips to Russia, and the table displayed nesting dolls, a faded red hammer and a sickle flag that was given to her by a young sailor. Post-World War II, as the people of Russia were cold, hungry and jobless, their dictator saw to it that seven tall, white, “wedding cake” buildings were constructed to beautify the skyline of the capital city. In reality, these gorgeous structures contained hundreds of cramped apartments, each often housing three generations of desperate, hopeless families, penniless and afraid. It is a Russian tradition, if you receive a gift, you give a gift back. The people were friendly and polite. They had so little to give. Among other things, Ball received a button off a sailor’s uniform, a tomato, a crudely carved toy, a piece of bread and sometimes a kiss.
“[Ball] still has that sensation of awe and blessing that she, a simple farm woman from Yukon, America, had the privilege of handing the Bible, God’s holy word, to thousands of outstretched hands. This was happening beneath the beautiful, colorful, historic, onion-domed towers of Moscow’s Red Square,” McKeever said. “Bibles were abolished in Russia many decades ago. No one [Ball] encountered refused a Bible. Some found her again, ‘please, could I have another one for my mother, or my brother, etc.?’”
Another table was filled with memorabilia from the many places she traveled and the adventures she experienced. Memories from family vacations, mission journeys and business trips were highlighted. Pictures depicting her parasailing, horseback riding, canoeing, snorkeling, motorcycle riding, mountain climbing and zip lining, all in the last five years, were displayed. The table also featured a world map that used “Finding Waldo.” Ball was found in Russia, Ecuador, Lithuania, India, Alaska, Hawaii, Columbia, Panama, Jamaica, England, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico, Israel and Turkey.
Another table represented the seasons of her life.
“She partnered with her husband driving tractors, trucks and cattle. They raised thousands of baby calves, and most importantly, several baby people. The greatest achievement of her life is her children. They were amazing then and still are amazing now. Each one, along with their children and grandchildren would make any mother proud,” McKeever said.
The next table featured those children, and their children’s children, and the children’s children’s children. The table highlighted her children, 30 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. All, except seven of these, were in attendance to celebrate her 90 years of life on March 25. Some were prevented by distance, as far as South Korea and Hawaii. One flew in late from Guam, arriving just in time.
Other remembrance tables featured her childhood days on the farm, college days, nurses’ training, the WWll Nurse Cadet Corp, her renowned hospitality, years with the American Red Cross and favorite hymns and Bible verses.
When asked about her favorite adventures in her life, Ball couldn’t pick just one. She had a few favorites that stood out in her mind, including:
—Distributing Christian literature in Red Square in Russia,
—Climbing 900 rocky, uneven steps to reach a 600-year-old palace stronghold in India in 116 degree heat,
—The Taj Mahal,
—Flying over Baghdad,
—Becoming friends with Ebenezer Barbaru’s mother, a “Bible woman,” who for most of her life walked barefoot from village to village bringing the Christian message to Hindu women,
— Visiting the Swiss and Austrian Alps,
—Experiencing the Russian subway system,
—Steaming through the Panama Canal,
—Visiting remote villages in Southern India,
—Parasailing and snorkeling in the Bahamas,
—Hop-scotching in tiny, usually old (once a 1944 model) planes to jungle mission schools in eastern Alaska,
—Holding many babies,
—Receiving a special memory book assembled by her children, and
—Living with friends at Spanish Cove Retirement Village.
Although Ball was on the fence about answering any specific questions about herself for the newspaper, she was happy to tell how great her birthday celebration, and the walk down memory lane, was.
“I thought it was fabulous,” Ball said. “It just seemed like it had everything you could think of, and everything you couldn’t think of, to make a person happy. It was very memorable. I won’t ever forget that day.”
The information about Ball’s life was submitted by Karen McKeever.

Leave a Comment