If you don’t know Mary Ballard then you better scoot on down to the 915 before the end of August. Mary has been taking care of this community in some form for as long as I can recall and has decided it's time to retire.
Now I admit that I cannot be unbiased here because, well, I have known Mary for a long time and admit that I simply adore her. I first met Mary and her husband, Craig on a high school open house. Craig, 6’4” tall and filled a doorway with his presence, entered the classroom and announced that he was “the world’s tallest dwarf.” Mary followed behind him, snickering and shaking her head.
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Mary says of the 915, “This is like my home. I haven’t met anybody I don’t like. I love it here.” She has taken care of thousands of us and she has instilled that concept of servitude into her children. Her son Will Hunt, serves on the Fort Thomas police force, and her daughter Megan Doran, is a nurse. They serve the community as well. So where did this sense of servitude begin?
|Megan, Mary, and Will.|
“It was the way we brought up. My dad always took care of the homeless at his restaurant. He owned the 514 Club in Covington on Madison Avenue,” she says. The historic sign is still on the building. “My mom and my aunt have always been in the restaurant business. I guess that’s where I got it. I’ve always been in the business.” So serving others has always been part of her life. Serving others is a beautiful quality and sounds a bit like a beauty pageant contestant. A little known fact about Mary is that she was a Miss Boone County and a Miss Teenage Kentucky.
Here is a telling observation Mary makes about herself. “I hardly ever sit down. I don’t want to sit down in front of my customers. I don’t like to be on my phone. I want to be there for them. If they need something I can jump right up. I don’t like dirty dishes in front of people. I mean, if I come in on a Saturday night, I’ll jump in to help them. It needs to be done. I do it because I love the people. I will miss everybody.” She is present and focused.
Her co-worker, Pam Rauckhorst, says, “When I think of Mary, words that immediately come to mind are stable, dependable, dedicated, willing, loving, kind, familiar, funny and a host of others. From being a co-worker to a friend I could possible ask for more. She will definitely be missed.”
Mary once owned a catering company, ran the school lunchroom for Southgate school, and is now a server at the 915 Pub and Grill.
So why retire now? Like the rest of us, she has had a few health concerns over the years - a knee, her eye, and has been cancer free for 16 years. She says, “I’m at the point in my life where I’m done. It’s time to move on and time for someone else to step in and fill my shoes. Could I ask for a better place to work? No, because I couldn’t ask for a better boss. Kerry has just been wonderful to me. And I love all of the girls who work here.”
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Mary recalls that, “When Craig passed away, 3 years in June, the community came together for me. It was phenomenal. I didn’t know I had that many friends or that Craig had that many friends. It was just amazing. It’s very touching.” I tell her that she is a rock star in town. She has touched all of our lives in a wonderful way.
|Mary and Craig Ballard.|
As we sat outside conducting this interview a young family left the restaurant. Mary called to their little boy and he came running. She reached in her purse, pulled out a sucker and gave it to him, and he hugged and kissed her. Mary beamed. She makes a patron’s visit memorable. She fusses over them and teases them and they enjoy the attention. That’s the kind of person she is. She builds relationships.
Mary is a no nonsense kind of person, but don’t mistake it for a lack of compassion. She will tell you what she thinks is best for you. And she is usually right. But she is just as quick to tear up over family, friends, and kindness. She doesn’t expect much so when much is given to her she is a bit overwhelmed. The community felt her grief when Craig died suddenly and it showered her with their affection. She may hurt, but she won’t show it. Instead, she will display a smile and go about her task. Mary is in her element when she feels of use. There is a line in one of my favorite poems, To Be of Use, that describes Mary.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
And the final lines describes Mary. She truly enjoys the work of helping others. On the surface, she is, yes, a server at the 915 Pub and Grill, but she is a servant to all of us. Mary’s final day is Friday, August 31. Stop by this week to wish her well. We sure will miss her service.