REMEMBERING ANNE BALL
Byline: Janet Ozzard
NEW YORK — Friends and family gathered Friday morning at the First Presbyterian Church here to remember Anne Ball, the fashion industry executive who died Jan. 19 at 52.
About 250 filled the church, including executives from Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and many of what one speaker called “graduates of the school of Anne Ball,” who worked with her in the three decades of her fashion career.
In the course of the memorial service, which included traditional hymns — “Amazing Grace” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” as well as readings from the Old and New Testaments, e.e. cummings and Ball’s own poetry — friends spoke not just of her skills at finding new ways to look at fashion and merchandising, but also of her endless intellectual curiosity and her ability to become immersed in books.
“I was her boss at Neiman Marcus almost three decades ago and we bonded in the first few weeks,” said fashion executive Marilyn Kaplan, who spent 12 years at Neiman Marcus. After she and Ball met, said Kaplan, their job became an adventure as the two traveled markets around the world for new resources.
“There was never a dull moment,” said Kaplan. “Her innate great taste and sense of style would shine through everything she touched. But there was always time to play, and there was no one better to play with.” Whether combing through markets for the porcelains that both Kaplan and Ball collected or finding new sportswear resources in Milan, said Kaplan, “her curiosity about the world was enormous, her imagination even greater and her enthusiasm for experience, for learning and doing even greater still.”
Even when Ball had to say no to someone, said Kaplan, it came across as a compliment.
“Everyone loved her, because she gave them incentive to better,” she said. “She had the uncanny ability to help people work better.”
Ball read voraciously, and had gone back to graduate school at New York University two years ago to take English literature classes.
“I tried to keep up with her book recommendations, but I think she lost me at Doris Lessing,” said Kaplan.
Recently, Ball and her husband bought property near Big Sur, intending to build a house there that would be their own retreat. The land became an important part of Ball’s life, said Raymond Davi, a friend who introduced the couple to the area. In addition to becoming fascinated by the history of Big Sur and the various artists and writers, such as poet Robinson Jeffers and conservationist Margaret Owings, who had settled there, Ball developed a deep spiritual connection to the area. The two friends spent an afternoon at Esalen, a retreat in Big Sur, rummaging through the institute’s tiny library.
“For several hours, we each went our separate ways and didn’t say a word,” said Davi.
Ball’s brother-in-law David Ball spoke of Ball’s intellectual curiosity and creativity, while her daughter Jayne Dennison Ball thanked friends for their support during her mother’s illness.
“I know people chanted themselves hoarse, and as my father said once, we could have burned down New York City with all the candles that were lit,” she said.
But Davi told the crowd that there would always be a place to look to remember Ball.
“As of today, there is a star named after her in the constellation Taurus,” Davi said. “Now, we’ll always know where Anne is.”