PHONE: 204.745.2045
Phone:  204.745.2045 |  Fax: 204.745.2499 | Email: [email protected]

Hwy. 3&13 10-4th Avenue SE P.O. Box 491 Carman MB.  R0G 0J0   Canada

Chris.jpg

Christopher John

"Chris" Ball

Christopher John Ball was the only child born to Claude Mangnuf Ball & Frances Mary (nee Redmond) Ball in Winnipeg, Mb. on June 26, 1952. He received his education in Winnipeg at a Catholic school. This was not only the beginning of his life but also the beginning of an era in aviation.

The time between a date of birth and date of death is sometimes referred to as the “dash” of life. For Chris, and his clever way of coming up with special ways to describe things, I’m sure he looked it as his “runway” of life. I’d like to touch on some of Chris’ runway highlights. I trust these will resonate with many of you & also give you a little deeper understanding of who this man was.

Chris’ passion for aviation was very obvious to his Dad & Mom. So much so, that at the age of 18 Chris’ father really had no alternative than to drive Chris out to Carman to meet Bob Diemert. Bob was fast becoming the first of what is now known as “Warbird Savers” by rebuilding to flying condition the Japanese Val dive bomber and Chris HAD to meet him. This literally started a 49 year working relationship.

Chris’ passion for aircraft electronics & instrumentation would prove invaluable. Bob & Chris went on to rebuild & restore not only the Val but also other warbirds including a Hawker Hurricane & a P-40F. The instrument panels of new aircraft designs such as the Defender & the WIG also received Chris’ attention to detail.

The knowledge & expertise Chris had for aircraft electronics & instrumentation was a natural gift. However, it was broadened through 3 separate employment opportunities he pursued early in his adult life.

He served in the RCAF for approximately 5 years, & was first stationed in Germany serving as a communications specialist. His responsibilities were to ensure that the instruments in the fleet of Lockheed F-104 Starfighter jets were working 100%. He then returned to Winnipeg, serving with the City of Winnipeg 404 Squadron. There, he had similar duties working on the fleet of Douglas DC-3’s and de Havilland twin Otters.

After being discharged, Chris went on to work for 3 years at Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg as an Instrument & Radio technician. It was there that he overhauled any & all of the instruments on the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo jets. Following that, he worked at Standard Aero rebuilding magnetos for civilian aircraft.

However, in the late 80’s/early 90’s, Chris would return to Friendship Field in Carman permanently.

In the years since returning, Chris spent many hours building & maintaining a variety of collections. Some of these included:

  • Cameras
  • Aircraft & machine gun models
  • Two aircraft flight simulators
  • Aircraft engine / airframe / electronic schematics & manuals
  • Comic strips
  • Movies & of course
  • Firearms. And not just ANY firearms.

Chris held all the possible licenses giving him the privilege to have & handle pretty much any firearm available. And for the most part, he did … over the course of time. He was fascinated with guns. To him they were a work of art. Something to figure out & understand how they actually worked. To marvel at how they were built & their precision. That was their primary purpose to Chris. Certainly not an item that needed to be fired in order to kill something. Or see how big a hole it could make. His focus was from the firing pin to the end of the muzzle & everything in between. His knowledge of each firearm he owned was fully respected by many, including the Gun Registry staff in Winnipeg.

I specifically recall a story he was proud to share with me on a recent trip to the city. He proceeded to recount one visit he made to the registry office to register a rare, rather large gun. When he entered the office, he was disappointed to not be welcomed by his friend he normally dealt with. However, he decided to go ahead anyway because “he had made the long trip to Winnipeg for a reason & didn’t want to be denied”. The new & younger officer had quite a few extra questions, but Chris was up to answering whatever. One of the questions was, “How many cartridges did the magazine for this particular firearm hold?” Chris answered “12”. Apparently the officer looked sideways at Chris and replied, “That’s impossible”! Chris was about to enter into one of his detailed renderings to help this gentleman understand how it was possible for the magazine to hold 12 rounds, when the voice of his friend, who was listening from the other side of a partition, filled the office saying, “If that guy says the magazine holds 12 rounds…it holds 12 rounds”!

Aircraft and their instruments in particular together with firearms can only be described as his “passions”. They were to Chris what watches are to a watch maker. Precision instruments. That is substantiated by the number of fine watch makers’ tools Chris had in order to repair or make replacement parts for many of his aircraft instruments & those of others.

Each of Chris’ areas of interest brought a variety of people into his life. It was likely through his passions or perhaps some of these interests which brought many of you into his life. Some through direct contact. Others through email or Facebook.

All of us have experienced Chris in a variety of ways. But I believe we were recipients of 2 things.

  1. A very gracious, genuine man who would give any of us the shirt off his back.
  2. A personality that included a very unique & hilarious way of putting descriptive words together that left no room for misinterpretation.

It is fair to state that there was no other place in the entire world where Chris would have been happier than at Friendship Field in Carman. The airport was his life. And at every airport, there is a runway. Chris has made it to the end of his runway. He passed away at home in the first few minutes on the morning of February 19, 2019.

This is not only going to be known as his date of death but also the end of an era in aviation. It will mark another turning point when it comes to aviation instrument repair. Chris was the last experienced instrument technician from Toronto to Edmonton & in much of the United States who could take any instrument from any flying aircraft today, no matter what era, and service it to like new condition.

Chris was predeceased by his Dad, Claude in 1986, his Mom, Frances in 2013 and all his known Aunts & Uncles. He is survived by no known cousins but his notable friend, Bob Diemert of Carman, one long time family friend of his Mom’s, Mabel Harwood of Winnipeg…plus…all of us. He will however be missed by a much larger group of people than we who are here today.

Rest in Peace Chris!

Comments  

#1 Gerry suski 2019-03-06 21:54
Rest In Peace Chris
You were adpecial guy
Thanks for all the knowledge you passed on to me to become a better tour Gide at the wpg aviation museum
#2 Larry Woods 2019-03-08 18:57
Rest In Peace Chris. I will miss your surprise visits to my "Tea House. I guess I will cut the grass for you while you are flying under "His Wings"
RIP Buddy - - Woody
#3 Don Crossman 2019-03-11 07:48
Life won't be the same without you, Chris. I can't begin to count all the things you have done for me over the year. God bless you.
#4 Bob Gillespie 2019-03-17 09:49

I met Chris in the 70’s when my father took me to Friendship Field to meet an aviation rebel/genius, Bob Diemert and get to sit in the recently restored Val Achi. My dad, Gray Gillespie, had met Bob in attempts to help him with his business aviation business projects, trough his position with the federal government.
I destinclly remember Chris touring us through sheds and hangers, describing in detail a fantastic collection of radio and electronic equipment, that he’d collected. It was obvious to me, even at my young age, that Chris was an invaluable “right hand man” to Bob and together, they were creating aviation magic!

God speed Chris

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