Norm Ball, the man who devoted 43 and half years of his life to elective service in Tunkhannock as a councilman and mayor, was remembered Tuesday as a selfless community booster and family man.
Ball died last Thursday evening, Feb. 13, in hospice care following a short hospital stay. He was 84.
He stepped down last July after having served as Mayor for 22 years, longer than anyone else in the borough’s 179-year history.
At his viewing Monday night Wyoming County Republican Chairman Davis Haire said that Norm and Peg had been friends for years. “He knew how to transcend the political spectrum and just serve in the best sense of the word.”
Ball, a native of Nicholson Township, grew up in East Lemon, and graduated from Tunkhannock High School in 1953. He was a tackle on the Tigers football team for three years, two of them playing alongside Mike ‘Ozzie’ Hudock who later played for the New York Titans and Jets.
Ball met his future wife, Peg Marcinonis, in 1954 on a blind date and a few months later they married and shared a 65-year relationship.
They soon moved to Astoria, N.Y., where Ball learned the baking trade working for the Stoniers who had ties to Tunkhannock.
He got a transfer to Chicago with the Stoniers, and when they opened a bakery in Florida and Norm was offered a job, Peg said that was too far away for her.
In 1964, they resettled in Apollo, where Norm worked for a small soft-coal mining company.
Within a couple of years, when back in Tunkhannock visiting family, Norm had learned that Charmin was planning to build a major manufacturing facility near Mehoopany.
Times weren’t exactly tough, Peg recently said, but they didn’t own a phone in Apollo, and Norm almost missed a job offer.
The company eventually became known as Procter & Gamble, and Ball worked there for 28 years, retiring in 1994.
P&G encouraged its employees to get involved in the community, and that Ball did with enthusiasm.
Last fall Ball looked back fondly on his first ‘official’ race for borough council in Tunkhannock’s third ward in 1975, and particularly on the preliminaries leading up to the primary.
Asked by the election registrar if he was registering to be in the Republican primary, “as everyone does that in this town,” Ball said, “If that’s so, I’m running as a Democrat.”
And, so it was for 11 more elections.
The following January, he and Mike Hudock - who lived in the first ward and was the dad of the former professional football player Ball had played with in high school - raised their right hands not just as new councilmen, but as the only Democrats on a heavily Republican council.
“It really wasn’t that big of a deal,” he remembered last November. “While we had our differences, it seemed that we were always able to keep our eyes on moving the community forward. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
Although Ball was mostly a winner in a community where his political persuasion could have been an issue, he did lose two races.
In 2003, he lost in a try to become Wyoming County commissioner.
In 1981, then serving as Tunkhannock Borough Council president, Ball lost by three votes in the Democratic primary to be the nominee for Mayor.
On the day after the election, Peg recalled this past weekend, a knock at their door by their pastor at Tunkhannock, Rev. Earle Cowden.
“I hope you’re not here to console us on his primary loss,” Peg remembered saying to Cowden.
“I wish I were,” she quoted him as saying, “but I’m here to tell you that one of your children has been killed in an automobile accident.”
“We were both stunned, of course, to learn of Normie’s death,” she recalled Sunday, and she thanked God for Cowden who eventually helped the couple not to be bitter at the world for having a child taken away.
For the next 38 years, they led a support group in Tunkhannock, ‘In Loving Memory,’ to help families who had experienced the loss of a child.
She said Norm didn’t speak much about their loss, but she believes it strengthened his faith and his willingness to serve the people of Tunkhannock.
Ball had been active in the Tunkhannock Community Ambulance Association, physically answering calls, and also serving as its treasurer when a new ambulance was procured.
When he first ran for Mayor in 1981, he had more than 15 years affiliation with the Tunkhannock Baseball Association, as a coach and manager of Little League ball and he was regularly seen at his grandchildren’s games.
In 2018, he was first in line at the high school to welcome the Tunkhannock Little League Major Softball squad members as they returned home after winning the Eastern U.S. regional championship.
They finished runner-up in that year’s World Series.
He also worked to promote the Tunkhannock Age Group Swim Team for nearly a decade and also assisted son Brad in his youth ice hockey experiences.
He was also active in the Tunkhannock United Methodist Church, serving as a trustee and chair of its administrative board.
Ball recalled last fall he had some peak experiences as Mayor, not all of his own making, but was just lucky enough to be at the top of the pecking order when good things were happening in Tunkhannock.
He was proud of the borough’s police force for “always helping to maintain good order in the borough.”
Riverside Park was another of Ball’s favorite responsibilities, and while he wasn’t on Council when Hurricane Agnes hit in 1972, he had taken a substantial role in helping to develop the former waterlogged subdivision into an attractive recreational spot.
Ball also had some tough sledding in town in 1997 after becoming Mayor but he found a way to turn lemons into lemonade.
Tractor-trailer rigs carrying products from the mammoth Procter & Gamble plant he once worked for clogged Tunkhannock’s main thoroughfares - Tioga and Bridge streets - to the point in which normal business traffic was reduced to a crawl, taking a half hour to move just a couple of miles.
He was fond of recalling that when former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, had visited town, he stayed in the legendary Prince Hotel where he seemingly heard or felt the rattle of nearly every rig coming through town.
At the bypass dedication in 2001 Lisa Baker, then an aide of Gov. Mark Schweiker and now the region’s state senator, recalled Ridge saying, “I will stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Tunkhannock to get a bypass built.”
“That was great news for all of us in Tunkhannock,” Ball recalled last November. “Sometimes you don’t know how you’re going to turn the corner on a given project, but we would take it, and certainly don’t need the credit.”
Another good boost for the borough happened when Tunkhannock itself was ravaged by a flood in 2011 which saw water from the Susquehanna River get to its highest flood stage ever.
That the area economy - and particularly the gas companies who had invested heavily in the county from 2009 forward - had money in their pockets meant that clean-up efforts were expedited in ways that other river towns in the Wyoming Valley were not so fortunate.
Ball worked feverishly after the flood to match those who needed help with services, and certainly felt no desire to take any credit.
But, of course, there were other good things happening in the borough across his tenure - a streetscape project downtown, the renaissance of the Dietrich Theater, a new library, and a new fire hall.
“I wish I could take credit for it all,” he said in 2018, “but the truth of the matter is that we have great groups of volunteers who know how to act when they see a need.”
Pastor Robin Fillmore in closing the funeral service said Norm Ball gave his all to a community people were proud to be from.
“Great job, thy faithful servant,” she said.