Lee Atwater Morgan Ballard, born April 2, 1924, died peacefully in Missoula on August 21, 2023. Her body has been sent to a temporary resting place: a freezer at MSU (years ago she decided to donate her body to the WWAMI program to be used in an anatomy class).
Lee was born in Concord, Massachusetts to Reginald Atwater Morgan and Jeannette Lee (Dunning) Morgan. A sister, Faith, four years Lee’s junior, completed the family.
The Morgan family had deep roots in the eastern seaboard; ancestors of Lee’s were involved in both the Salem Witch Trials (the accusing side, unfortunately) and the Revolutionary War.
Lee was raised in Concord, attending the Concord Academy (until the Great Depression made that too expensive) and Concord public schools. Though she ventured outside some, she could usually be found indoors reading a book. When her mother told her to go outside and play, she would climb a tree with her book and read there. An important part of her childhood was the summers she spent at the family summer house in New Hampshire, a farmhouse that had been purchased by her Aunt Lilla, who died of influenza in 1918. Lee graduated from Concord High School in 1941 and began her studies at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, the following autumn. In 1944 she interrupted her education to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), where she served as a weather observer in the Carolinas and Alabama. She returned to Antioch in 1946 and completed her degree in 1949, majoring in political science and economics. An important feature of Antioch College was that between periods of taking classes, students took jobs for several months. A job Lee took with Travelers’ Aid in New York City sparked an interest in social work, so she decided to continue her education at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. While living at the University of Chicago’s International House, she met a music-loving young man from the Yakima, Washington area, Bill Ballard, who was a doctoral student in mathematics. While Bill completed his studies, Lee worked for Travelers’ Aid again, having decided not to finish a social work degree. Lee and Bill married in September 1952 and moved to Ohio, where Bill served in the U.S. Air Force, teaching at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. During his 4-year Air Force stint, Lee and Bill had three children – Thomas, Henry, and Martha. In 1957, Bill accepted a teaching job at the University of Montana, and the family made their move west.
In addition to raising her children, Lee was an active member of the League of Women Voters, a founder of the Tuesday hikers, and a keen-eared bird-watcher. Her love of reading led to her volunteering at the Missoula Public Library for 30 years. She refused to serve on the board, but went to every board meeting and was instrumental in building the new (now old) library in the 1970s. She also volunteered at the Rattlesnake School’s library, encouraging the school’s students to read books she loved, and keeping things organized. For many years her voice could be heard on the radio, reading poems with the Pea Green Boat’s Poetry Club. Before environmentalist was a word, she washed and reused her plastic wrap and served ice cream to her 4th of July party guests in margarine tubs. Other interests included flower gardening, weather-watching, knitting, politics, and bridge. She felt that it was important to keep her cookie jar stocked, but she was not really interested in cooking. In spite of this, influenced by Bill’s healthful eating habits, she ate balanced meals until the very end. Salad was mandatory! Though it was difficult to pull Bill away from his vegetable garden, Lee managed to travel with him to England, Scotland, France, Greece, and a variety of Canadian provinces.
Lee is survived by her sons Tom (Katie) Ballard and Martha (Russell) Thayer, both of Missoula, and Henry (Lin) Ballard of Boulder, CO; three grandchildren - Megan, Brian, and Owen; three gorgeous great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews and their families.
In her honor, please feel free to give a donation to the Missoula Public Library, Missoula Aging Services, Missoula Food Bank, ACLU, or a Democrat running for office in 2024.