Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-12-07
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Former Iowa Mr. Leather and computer programmer Ken Ballard dies at 43
by Carrie Maxwell
2022-01-21

This article shared 4019 times since Fri Jan 21, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Former Iowa Mr. Leather, computer programmer and gay Chicagoan Ken Meverick Ballard died Jan. 11 in his Lake View home at the age of 43. The cause of death is currently unknown.

Ballard was born July 9, 1978, in Des Moines, Iowa where he spent his entire childhood. At 8, Ballard started teaching himself to code. He graduated from North High School in Des Moines and started his career shortly thereafter.

In a quote from a memoir written by Ballard about his life he said, "I got my first computer when I was eight years old. I started writing code on it and learned what would later be my craft at an early age. I would buy magazines with code in the back of them. I was such a slow typist with my tiny fingers, Mom would type the program in and I would change and expand it."

Ballard worked in the programming field for 20 years, most recently at Slalom as a Solutions Principal. He also worked at Nerdery for five years as a principal software engineer and computer serviceman. At each of his jobs, Ballard moved up the promotion ladder into leadership roles and, according to his family, was loved by his colleagues.

Additionally, Ballard taught free programming skills to children and adolescents across Chicago through his involvement at the non-profit CoderDojo (now We All Code), where he also served as a principal board member. He also volunteered at the Lake View Food Pantry and, with other team members, created a Chicago COVID tracking app.

Ballard was known to his family and friends as a "walking Google."

Among Ballard's other interests were playing the trombone and piano. His trombone skills led to an article in the Drake University newspaper, where he took lessons from one of the university professors.

Shortly after being named Iowa Mr. Leather in 2005, Ballard moved to Chicago, where he spent most of the rest of his life.

A practicing Zen Buddhist, Ballard also went on a sabbatical at the Green Gulch Farm of the Zen Buddhist Center in the San Francisco area for a time where he worked in the farm's kitchen and garden due to his love of cooking. He also took culinary arts classes and during the COVID-19 pandemic hosted a family Zoom that he called "Cooking with Ken" where the family prepared and ate meals together.

Ballard was an avid biker—even in inclement weather that would result in injuries—and was a frequent participant in Chicago's World Naked Bike Ride. He also organized group bike rides with friends and co-workers.

Additionally, Ballard loved attending big concerts and performances. He also played his djembe (a type of drum) at the Chicago Full Moon Jam among other recreational endeavors.

He was an avid and spontaneous traveler. Journeys included a recent road trip across the country as well as several months spent in India and Nepal. He loved meeting new people and spending time with family and friends.

Ballard is survived by his mother, Rose Eaves; father, Michael Ballard; sister, Jennifer (Brendan) Carroll; nephews Brian and Devin; numerous aunts, uncles and cousins; countless chosen family members and friends; and his cat, Karen.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Stan and Letha Ballard and Leon and Mary Ohnemus Eaves.

Ballard's mother said, "Ken loved to spend time with his paternal grandma, Letha Ballard. She taught him how to knit, crochet, played board games with him and also frequently cooked and baked with him. His love for cooking and baking came from their experiences together, and he loved sharing his talent with others as an adult. He would go to his grandma to work on the Saturdays that she worked at a law firm in downtown Des Moines. She was the only surviving grandparent as he was growing up and they had a very close relationship.

"Ken was a very good baby, did not cry much and was a pure joy. He always had a smile on his face and was very curious and inquisitive. He loved singing, dancing and laughing as a young boy. As he got older, I had to buy a set of encyclopedias that will date him in order to keep up with his inquisitive mind. He was in the Talented and Gifted program from the 6th grade on. Ken had a gentle and quiet spirit, but certainly could be the life of the party and brought much joy and happiness to all around him, especially his family."

"Rose and I blocked each other on Facebook without knowing it," said his aunt Leah Eaves. "I remember Ken telling us not to try and fix our own computers and to wait for him to do it."

"Ken was well-loved by many extended family and lifelong friends," said his aunt Ann Huffman. "He was a friend to everyone he met. His enthusiasm and love impacted all whose life he touched. Ken leaves a hold in our hearts as big as his laugh and as wide as his smile. He was a beacon of light, laughter and compassion for his family, friends and all he met. Ken's light will be missed, but his flame will ever light the torch that glows within everyone whose life he touched."

"His laughter always brought joy. He loved hard and always made sure you knew it," said his cousin Amy Eaves. "He was brilliant and bold. May he glitter on in our hearts."

"Ken was the hub of the Eaves cousins," said Sara Huffman, one of his cousins. "We all grew up together and he made sure we all stayed close and connected over the years. He was brave and always lived his life truthfully, which paved the way for me and others to come out and be who we are, too. There are genuinely no words to express what he meant to me."

"Ken was a really great uncle to our kids," said another cousin, Mike Street. "He always went above and beyond to see the joy in their eyes."

"Ken always showed up as a friend," said longtime friend John Michael Colgin. "I called him 'Fun Monster.' Thankfully, he was so funny that it is hard to think about him without laughing. He would often say engineers need artists and artists need engineers in reference to our friendship. Little lessons like avoiding insularity will always be with me in how I live and relate to my community. I will miss introducing him to those I care about."

"I met him in eighth grade at the half-day magnet school for smart kids in Des Moines," said another friend, Melissa Dally. "He was so much fun and hilarious even back then. We were both obsessed with Star Trek: The Next Generation. He became my best friend. We would have these intense long phone calls and sent each other long handwritten letters. I could not ask for a better friend. I am glad we reconnected in recent years."

"I moved to Chicago 13 years ago and met Ken at a community event," said yet longtime friend, Jake Bridgewater. "He invited me over to his place and I did not leave for three days. For the first month of knowing me, he thought I was in the closet looking for guidance when really I just wanted a friend. He is like my girlfriend. Only later did I find out he called me 'Straight Jake'."

"Ken was a self-made man and never forgot that," said former Nerdery work colleague and friend Gregg Walrod. "Anytime he could, he was volunteering in the community. Whether it be serving food or teaching the next generation of coders. Ken did everything he could to give back to others. The only thing larger than Ken's laugh was his heart. He always made you feel like you were the most important person in the world when you were with him. Anytime anyone moved to the city or visited he made sure they felt welcomed."

"He was constantly thinking of others, putting people first and leading with empathy," said Slalom work colleague Anne Halliday. "Someone described him recently as a 'fierce friend' which is just so fitting. He celebrated authenticity so freely in a way that we could all learn from. His laugh was so distinct, genuine and contagious. He was super smart, wonderful at his job, always learning more and excited about making an impact. He and Karen the Kitty simply made work fun for everyone around him. He had such a huge personality so the hole left behind seems all the quieter."

Ballard's Chicago friends held a "Sunday Funday" to honor his life at one of his favorite Chicago bars, Carol's Pub, in Uptown on Jan. 16.

A GoFundMe account has been launched, with the proceeds going to a mental health charity of the family's choosing; see www.gofundme.com/f/remembering-ken .


This article shared 4019 times since Fri Jan 21, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Chicagoans gather for Jackhammer re-opening
2023-01-30
Photos by Joseph Stevens - Rogers Park leather and fetish bar Jackhammer held its grand re-opening the evening of Jan. 27 after a long renovation process. The longtime North Side watering hole opened in 1999, taking over the space previously occupied ...


Gay News

ONYX Midwest forum tackles racist performance at Touche's anniversary party
2023-01-22
In a response to the racist performance that took place at the leather, fetish and bear-focused Touche Chicago's 45th anniversary celebration on Nov. 1, 2022, ONYX Midwest hosted a community forum Jan. 21 at The Leather ...


Gay News

LGBTQ+ police officer remembered as 'wonder woman'
2022-12-30
On Dec. 29, the friends and loved ones of LGBTQ+ Bradley Police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic gathered at the Comfort Inn in Bourbonnais to mark the one-year anniversary of her passing, ABC 7 Chicago reported. The hotel ...


Gay News

In memoriam: LGBTQ community obituaries 2022
2022-12-27
The LGBTQ community lost many members in 2022, including at least 35 people in incidents of hate violence against individual transgender people and against patrons of the Club Q bar in Colorado. Here are other memorable ...


Gay News

Memorial set for Charlotte Newfeld
2022-12-09
Memorial set for Charlotte Newfeld Memorial services for LGBTQ+ community ally and Lakeview activist Charlotte Newfeld will be Tuesday, Jan. 24 at Ann Sather's on Belmont, from 6-8 p.m. Newfeld died Nov. 17 due to natural causes. She ...


Gay News

PASSAGES: LGBTQ+ ally, activist and artist Charlotte Newfeld passes away
2022-11-23
LGBTQ+ ally, activist and artist Charlotte Newfeld died Nov. 17 due to natural causes. She was 91. At the time of her death, Newfeld was living at the Dobson Memory Care facility in Evanston. Newfeld was ...


Gay News

Passages: Sexologist and activist Dr. Thomas Gertz passes away
2022-11-19
Sexologist and activist Dr. Thomas Gertz died Oct. 28 due to natural causes. He was 77. At the time of his death, Gertz was in an assisted living facility. He had previously lived at Heartland ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Singer Aaron Carter dies at 34
2022-11-05
Singer Aaron Carter—the brother of Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter—has died after apparently drowning at his L.A. home at age 34, according to media reports. TMZ originally reported the news. The outlet said that he was ...


Gay News

Touche Chicago's 45th-anniversary celebration marred by racist performance
2022-11-03
Racist performance mires Touche Chicago's 45th anniversary celebration By Carrie Maxwell On Nov. 1, the leather, fetish and bear-focused Touche Chicago celebrated its 45th anniversary with a feature performance by ...


Gay News

Memorial for Urvashi Vaid to be livestreamed Nov. 3
2022-10-29
A memorial celebration of the life of Urvashi Vaid will be held on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT at B'Nai Jesherun, 258 W. 88th St., New York City. In-person RSVPs are at capacity. However, the event will ...


Gay News

'Will & Grace' actor Leslie Jordan dies in car accident
2022-10-24
Leslie Jordan—the openly gay actor who rose to fame on Will & Grace as the frenemy of Megan Mullally's Karen Walker and was immediately recognizable by his Southern accent—died in a single-car crash in Hollywood on ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'P-Valley,' Dan Levy, trans/non-binary panel, Christina Aguilera, Spirit Day
2022-10-23
Video below - Starz has renewed the show P-Valley (the network's most-watched series) for a third season, The Hollywood Reporter noted. The renewal for the series from creator/showrunner Katori Hall arrives more than two months after the sophomore season ...


Gay News

PASSAGES Kathleen Joan DeBold
2022-10-15
-- From www.kfhpa.com/obituary/Kathleen-DeBold - Kathleen Joan DeBold, celebrated DC LGBT activist, died suddenly on October 9, 2022 in Ocean City, MD. Kathleen was born on November 16, 1955 in Brooklyn, NY, to Francis Charles and Joan Marie DeBold. During childhood, ...


Gay News

The life of trans icon Gloria Allen celebrated at event
2022-10-07
A celebration of the life of noted transgender activist, mentor and teacher Gloria Allen was held on Oct. 6 at Center on Halsted. Allen—who wasaffectionately called "Mama Gloria" by her friends and colleagues, saw her efforts ...


Gay News

Comic and LGBTQ+ ally Judy Tenuta dies at 72
2022-10-07
Judy Tenuta—an unconventional stand-up comic who often played the accordion and who guested on numerous TV shows and appeared in two "Weird" Al Yankovic videos—died Oct. 6 of ovarian cancer in Studio City, California at age ...


 




Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.