An Army life

Marion Sydenham Ball has been connected to the U.S. Army her entire life

By Margaret Bicker on January 20, 2017

Marion Sydenham Ball was born in 1923 in Ft. Missoula, Montana, as she puts it, "a child of the 4th Infantry Regiment." When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, Ball interrupted her college studies to enlist in the Army Nurse Corps, but shortly after the war ended, she retired from the Corps and worked for a while as a civilian nurse until she left the profession to marry Army Major Robert Ball. For the next two decades, Marion served as an Army wife and mom. She and her husband, raised two sons: Robert and James.

In 1968, Major Ball was assigned to Fort Lewis. At the time, says Mrs. Ball, "Ft. Lewis was the post to be sent to. Everybody wanted to be stationed here." The reason for that quickly became clear. Once the Balls discovered the mild climate and the wild beauty of the South Sound Region and the state as a whole, they never looked back.  For almost fifty years, Ball and her family have lived near JBLM.

"It became," she says, "the most important place I've lived. It became my home."

As a civilian, Ball began volunteering at the base almost as soon as they arrived. She and some of her fellow Army wives re-established the Ft. Lewis branch of the Daughters of the United States Army, a non-profit organization that provided - and still provides - scholarships and largely academic support for the daughters of active duty and retired Army officers. The past national vice president of the Ft. Lewis Chapter of the Military Order of World Wars and frequent speaker for the Daughters of the American Revolution, Republican Women, and the Army Retired Officers and Enlisted Spouses Club, Ball began volunteering with the Ft. Lewis Museum in 1973, serving as an executive board member for thirty years. In addition to her service as a board member, Ball has served the museum in a variety of other capacities, including Treasurer, Newsletter Editor, and Gift Store Manager.

After the Major retired from the military, the Balls both decided to pursue careers in the field of education. Major Ball went on to teach at Ft. Steilacoom Community College, while Mrs. Ball would have a successful twenty year career, teaching history to high school and college students on and near the base. From 1981 until 1986, she was the Director of the Military Educational Programs at Ft. Lewis, helping soldiers earn their high school diplomas.

"I spent ... years teaching soldiers American history," says Ball.

In 2006, Mrs. Ball became one of the first women and the first non-politician to be inducted into the Ft. Lewis Civilian Hall of Fame in recognition of her many years of service to the base. Then, in 2008, the Ft. Lewis Military Museum's Army Family Gallery was dedicated to her in honor of all the work she has done with the museum over the years.

But Mrs. Ball, who at 93 still volunteers her time helping at the museum, takes all the recognition in stride. For her, the real honor has been the opportunity she has had to serve the Army over the years.

"The opportunity to volunteer at Ft. Lewis was very rewarding," says Ball.