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East County Wednesday, Jul. 22, 2009 11 years ago

Friends, family honor cowboy

by: Pam McTeer

MANATEE COUNTY — Few people live life with a true understanding of what it means to love people and live what they believe.

But Myakka City resident Allan Randolph “Randy” Ballard did.

The lifelong cowboy died July 11, 2009, after a valiant battle with cancer. Hundreds of friends and family members gathered to celebrate Ballard’s life July 15 at Myakka Family Worship Center on Singletary Road. His burial followed at New Zion Baptist Church in Ona. He was 58 years old.

“To sum up Randy, he was a Christian man that loved his family,” longtime friend Dr. Johnnie Copeland said. “He made an impact on anybody he touched — all age groups … The community will miss him. He’ll never be replaced, but he did leave a standard for the rest of us to try to live up to.”

Ballard grew up on his family’s cattle ranch in Myakka City. The lessons he learned in hard work and responsibility he passed on to every youth he could, particularly through his work with the 4-H club and the Manatee County fair.

A lifelong cowboy, Ballard used his expertise and passion for cattle and agriculture as an avenue to mentor youth. Through 4-H, he and his wife, Diana, also took local children all across the state for livestock shows and other activities, and his role at the Manatee County Fair as barn superintendent and fair director created a powerful legacy for those who knew him.

“He was always being positive for the kids — even when his cancer was so bad this past January,” said Tammy Meador, who grew up on a neighboring family farm in Myakka. “He was so sick, but he showed up there at the fair to support these kids no matter how bad he felt.”

“He invested in people,” lifelong friend Larry Cline added. “He and his wife, both. You can’t separate the two. In all the years I’ve known them, the door to their home has been open to so many people.”

Even as Ballard battled his own health issues, including cancer and a genetic kidney disease, he kept his focus on other people and how he could best serve them instead of dwelling on his own needs.

Cline said Randy Ballard seemed to have built-in radar for sensing when there was trouble or heartache. At those times, he’d just show up to be with his friends.

“He didn’t say a lot, but he would just spend time with you,” Cline said.

And time was precious to Ballard. He soaked up each moment, living life to the fullest and keeping a positive attitude despite the circumstances, his friends said.

Whether an old friend, youth from 4-H or a family member, Ballard’s life was filled with people he loved. They hunted together. They fished together. They worked cattle together. He rarely was alone.

Having grown up on the farm and having worked as a cowboy for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch for nearly 25 years, Ballard was known for his toughness and his way with cattle.

Even five months before his death, he was named all-around cowboy at the annual Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Cup — a match-up in which cowboys play polo and polo players rope cattle.

Randy Ballard also played softball for more than 20 years on both industrial and church leagues. He and friend Powell Helm grew especially close over the last few years, sharing a passion for Tampa Bay Rays baseball. When they didn’t use Helm’s season tickets, the friends caught the Rays on television.

“We were coaching the team — they just weren’t listening to us,” Helm said, laughing. “While he was in the hospital, he didn’t miss a game.”

Ballard, a member of Bethany Baptist Church, also was known to his friends as a practical jokester who loved to laugh and play pranks on friends.

“I never saw the man (when) he was not upbeat,” Copeland said. “We might go for a few days or six months without seeing each other. He was the same every time.”

Ballard is survived by his wife, Diana; sons, Ron and Ray of Spartanburg County, S.C.; five grandchildren; brothers Denny of Myakka City, Clinton of Zephryhills, Scott of Arcadia and Larry Cline of Myakka City; sisters Terri Haskins of Bradenton, Sharon Carson of Arcadia and Shirley Reigle and Trish Lingo of Myakka City; three uncles; 19 nieces and nephews; eight grand-nieces and nephews; mother-in-law Virginia Starks and three sisters-in-law.

Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].

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