WALLINGFORD - Lynne Bradley Turdin, 68, of Wallingford, passed away peacefully, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, at Gaylord, surrounded by her family.
Frank Willard Ballard, internationally-renowned puppeteer , 80, of Storrs passed away Friday, (June 4), after a decades-long battle with Parkinson's Disease. Born in Alton, Illinois on December 7, 1929, he discovered a fascination for his craft at age five when his Aunt Margaret took him to a puppet show. That experience started a life-long passion with the theatre and the art of puppetry that led him to international acclaim during his three decades at the University of Connecticut from 1956-1989.
As a youth, Ballard performed his first puppet show The Three Little Pigs for his stuffed penguin Pal Alfred and any relative who happened to wander into the room. Throughout grade school, high school and college, he maintained a 10-person company, which included his future wife, Adah Ruth Smalley. He was aided by his family along the way, as his Aunt Margaret helped build puppets, his father Glen built stages and his mother Alice drove him to performances.
A graduate of Alton High School, where he was active in the dramatic arts, Ballard received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Alton's Shurtleff College in 1952 and his Master of Arts degree from the University of Illinois in 1953. During his college years, Ballard served as the Assistant Technical Director in the Theatre Department of Monticello College in Alton (1947-49). A member of the Alpha Psi Omega Dramatic Fraternity, he performed dramatic roles at Shurtleff College and was the Managing Director of its Children's Theatre (1951-52). Ballard married Adah Ruth Smalley on August 22, 1953 and they spent the next three years at the University of Iowa, where he served as a designer of educational television shows. In 1956, Ballard was hired as the Set Designer and Technical Director of the new Harriet S. Jorgensen Theater at the University of Connecticut. He was appointed to the faculty of the Department of Speech and Drama. Six years later the Drama, Art and Music Departments merged to form the School of Fine Arts. Ballard founded UConn's puppetry program, which soon became the only program in United States to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in puppetry.
Ballard directed and designed countless puppetry productions at UConn, beginning with a 1961 performance of Macbeth for television. In 1966, he created the puppets and also designed the sets for UConn's stage production of Carnival. Two years later he produced his first major puppet production at UConn with The Mikado. Over a dozen of Ballard's full-scale UConn puppet productions followed on the Jorgensen stage, incorporating a wide variety of art forms from marionettes to rod puppets, shadow puppets, hand puppets and masks. His final UConn production was H.M.S. Pinafore in 1989, which was one of three Ballard productions awarded a Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry from UNIMA-U.S.A. He also received that honor for The Golden Cockerel (1977) and The Magic Flute (1986). Another one of his productions, Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung, was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in 1980. During his UConn tenure, Ballard produced, designed and directed 100 operas and musicals for puppet theater, created more than 1,500 individual puppets and was the founder and namesake of the Ballard Museum and Institute of Puppetry (BIMP).
Ballard was the American representative to the 40th anniversary celebration of the international puppetry organization L'Union International de la Marionette (UNIMA) in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1963, beginning two decades of serving his profession in countless roles nationally and internationally. He was the Chairman of the National Puppet Festival for the Puppeteers of America, which was held at UConn in 1970. That year he was elected as the Puppeteers of America's Vice President. From 1971-74 he served as the organization's President. He also served as the Coordinator for the Puppeteers of America National Festival in New London, Connecticut (1976). In 1972, Ballard was the American Representative to the Council of UNIMA in Charlesville, France. He was the American Representative to the Council of UNIMA in Moscow (1976), the UNIMA Festival in London, England (1979), the 50th anniversary celebration of UNIMA in Liege, Belgium (1979) and the Council of UNIMA in Washington, D.C. (1980). Ballard served as Vice President of UNIMA-U.S.A. from 1973-80, and was elected as the President of UNIMA-U.S.A. for 1980-81. He was re-elected to that post the following year. In 1984, UNIMA awarded Ballard its highest recognition, naming him a Member of Honor, granting him the honorary title "Doctor" and distinguishing him for life achievement in puppetry. Ballard addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 on the cultural aspects of puppetry in the United States. In 1976, he was named as a Notable American of the Bicentennial Era by the American Bicentennial Institute and also received the President's Award from the Puppeteers of America, that organization's highest award. He was named to Who's Who in the East, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the Theatre. Over the years, Ballard served as a puppetry consultant for numerous organizations, among them the Connecticut Opera Guild (1963), the School of Fine Arts at George Washington University in Toronto (1978), Prentice-Hall Publishers (1978), the Morrow Press (1978), The Smithsonian Institution (1978-79), and many towns, including the Canadian city of Edmonton (1978-79). Ballard was named Connecticut Professor of the Year in 1988 and was one of seven bronze medalists in the national competition. The author of numerous articles, Ballard also co-write the book Directing the Puppet Theatre (1989) with friend and colleague Carol Fijan. He wrote the puppetry entry for Encyclopedia Britannica in 2000. Ballard's puppetry creations have been exhibited all over the United States and abroad, including Czechoslovakia, Argentina, Canada, France, and the USSR. Ballard was honored by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, received the Life Achievement Citation from the New England Theatre Conference and, upon his retirement in 1989, a letter from President George Bush saluting him for his contribution to the arts. In 1997, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the School of Fine Arts' fourth annual awards banquet. In addition to the stage, Ballard had a passion for classical music and opera.
His late English bulldog Winston was dear to his heart, and one of the great joys in his life was his four grandchildren, Aylee and Catriona of Berlin, Massachusetts and Ian and Jay of Glassboro, New Jersey. His calm, generous and caring personality earned him the moniker of "second father" to numerous students he nurtured and befriended through the years, guiding them into a wide variety of the arts including their own puppetry companies, work for stage and screen, and employment with organizations like The Muppets.
Ballard was predeceased by his loving wife of 56 years, Adah Ruth, who passed away in March, and his parents Glen and Alice Ballard of Alton, Illinois. He is survived by his brother, Irwin of Alton and his siste,r Alice Casner of Killeen, Texas; and his sons, David and his wife Robin of Berlin, Massachusetts, and Michael and his wife Beverly of Glassboro, New Jersey.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (BIMP), University of Connecticut, Depot Campus, 6 Bourn Place, U-5212, Storrs, CT 06269-5212.
There will be no formal calling hours. A private graveside service will be held Thursday morning, June 10, and a memorial service will be held at a future date some time the week of July 5. The Potter Funeral Home of Willimantic is handling the arrangements.