John Fred Ball, a Kansas City area grocer whose parents helped launch the cash and carry trend in the metro area, died Oct. 28 at age 77.
Known as Fred Ball, the second-generation grocer headed Balls Food Stores, which was started by his parents Sidney and Mollie in 1923 in Kansas City, Kan. The chain grew to include 28 stores under the Hen House and Ball's Price Chopper banners with their son’s leadership. His son, David Ball, is now at the reins of the company, which has 4,000 employees.
Ball was a lifelong resident of the Kansas City area and a 1956 graduate of the University of Kansas Business School. In the grocery industry Ball was known for his work with the Food Marketing Institute, where he served as a board member for 20 years.
The institute honored him with the Sidney R. Rabb Award in May. He also received the National Visionary Food Industry Award in recognition of his work. He worked closely with Associated Wholesale Grocers of Kansas City, Kan., and served as its chairman for 28 years.
Ball went to work for his parents upon graduation from KU and became president of Ball’s Food Stores in the mid-1960s. In the mid-1970s his parents turned over control of the company to Ball, during one of the worst inflationary periods in American history.
As buying power dropped and food prices soared, Ball tried a new concept, according to the company website. He launched bare-bones, warehouse format in supermarkets with the lowest possible prices. The Ball’s Price Chopper stores grew to be a dominant force on both sides of the state line that runs through the Kansas City metro area.
Ball and his wife Jo Ann were married for 55 years and were known for their philanthropic efforts. Their annual backyard golf event evolved into the Ball’s Charity Golf Classic. In the past 30 years it raised more than $4 million for charitable organizations, predominantly the KVC Behavioral Health Center.
The center grew out of Wyandotte House, a single group home for eight boys founded by JoAnn Ball and other members of the KCK Junior League in 1970. Now the center is a top provider of services for emotionally and behaviorally impaired, abused, neglected, runaway and homeless children in the U.S. It serves five states through 21 centers, and recently reached a historic milestone with 1,500 adoptions in 1,500 days.
Ball is survived by his wife, his son, two daughters, Debbie Simpson and Diane Wilkerson; and seven grandchildren. Services are set for 11a.m. Nov. 2 at the church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to the Lewy Body Foundation or Kaw Valley Behavorial Health Care.