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Hertha Ball lived the American dream to the end

Hertha B. Ball lived a storybook life, being rescued from Nazi Germany by a famous Western New York songwriter, then moving to Clarence, where she and her husband, Arthur, prospered as cattle breeders.

Long after his death, Mrs. Ball continued to manage the couple's farming and real estate interests until she was well into her 90s.

And when she turned 100, in September 2009, she was the guest of honor at a birthday party at Westwood Country Club in Amherst, the same location where she used to deliver eggs to the back door in the 1940s.

Mrs. Ball, the former Hertha Baron, died Sunday in the same Clarence farmhouse bedroom where her husband died 50 years earlier.

She was 103.

“My mother made the most out of every century she lived in,” quipped her daughter, Tina J. Ball.

Mrs. Ball's emigration to America dates back to 1939, when she and her husband had been trying to flee the Nazi Germany war machine for Australia. Springville songwriter Jack Yellen, best known for writing the lyrics to “Happy Days Are Here Again,” wrote something more important for the Balls – a letter to a Jewish agency in Berlin seeking a farmhand for his Springville farm. That's how the Balls relocated to Western New York.

Before the couple prospered as cattle breeders, becoming among the largest landowners in Clarence, Mrs. Ball delivered eggs and drove cows to the stockyards. She also worked for a time in a hat factory, decorating hats for a penny apiece.

“Here's a woman who came here with nothing,” Tina Ball said just before her mother turned 100. “My father didn't even speak English. It's the American dream. She lived it.”

A voracious reader and prolific writer who still did the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle at age 100, Mrs. Ball earned a reputation as a classy, polite woman who loved words and knew how to smile.

“You can do anything with a smiling face,” she said, at age 100. “That makes everybody happy. You should appreciate every day. It's a special gift, a present.”

Mrs. Ball was a lifetime emeritus member of the Westwood Country Club and a longtime member of the Brandeis Women's Committee, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Temple Beth Zion.

She also volunteered with the Buffalo Council on World Affairs, parlaying her extensive travels and sophisticated European elegance to introduce visitors to Buffalo.

She served on the Mothers' Council at the Park School of Buffalo, where she was honored on her 100th birthday. The Hertha Ball Creative Writing Fund was established there in her honor, as were a creative-writing award and a writer-in-residence program. Last year, the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies honored her as a foundation centenarian.

While Mrs. Ball moved to New York City in 2003 to spend half the year with her daughter and only granddaughter, Joanna, she maintained her Clarence residence, Hertina Farms, and lived there with her family during the spring and summer months.

Her husband, a prominent Clarence farmer and Buffalo businessman, died in 1963.

Mrs. Ball's funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.

Mourners no doubt will be reminded of her daughter's words 13½ years ago, at Mrs. Ball's 90th birthday party.

“Don't throw out the candles,” Tina Ball said. “We'll be back in 10 years.”

She was right.