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Death in our diocesan family: The Rev. Deacon Kathleen Ballard

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The Rev. Deacon Kathleen BallardWith sadness we share the news of the death of the Rev. Deacon Kathleen Ballard, 98, on May 25, 2023, surrounded by family.

Kathleen served as deacon at the House of Prayer, Newark; St. Stephen’s, Millburn; and St. Georges, Maplewood. She also served on the Christian Formation Commission, formerly known as the Christian Education Commission (1987-2015); the Cathedral Chapter (Class of 1995 and 2003); Diocesan Council (Class of 2003); Commission for Women’s Ministries (2006-2010); Commission on Ministry (2011-2021); and as a Deputy to Provincial Synod (1999).

Visitation will be held on Thursday, June 1, 5-8 PM at the Woody "Home for Services," 163 Oakwood Avenue in Orange.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 AM on Friday, June 2, at Church of the Epiphany and Christ Church in Orange.

Condolences may be sent to her granddaughter Dawn Sanders at 53 Orchard Rd., Maplewood, NJ 07040.

Kathleen's family shares this obituary:

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

Beloved Sister, Grandmother, Aunt, and Minister – the Rev. Kathleen Miller Sanders Ballard lived a long and beautiful life filled with love, faith and hope providing guidance, kindness and wisdom to all who knew her. It is difficult to describe a life so well lived without understanding the significant role that God played in the life of Kathleen from her days as a young woman.

Kathleen was born on April 22, 1925 in Newark, New Jersey. As the eldest of five children, she was beloved by her parents Kenneth Smith Miller and Florence Jones Miller. When she was just two years old, her aunt submitted a photo of her to a local baby contest which won her first place. Not long after, her photo appeared in the acclaimed and historic Crisis Magazine as part of the W.E.B. DuBois effort to keep records of African Americans.

Kathleen grew up in East Orange and Newark where she met Ralph Sanders whom she married in 1941. After 35 years of marriage, Ralph passed away in November 1976. Kathleen was a devoted and loving mother to their two sons, Ralph Alvin and Paul Arnold. The family relocated to Los Angeles to support their son Ralph’s pursuit of college as he ran track at Modesto Junior College. She proudly graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s degree in Education in August of 1965.

As an educator, she was an inspiration to many young people including her own grandchildren. Kathleen taught in Los Angeles, Newark and East Orange school districts. Throughout her career in education, she focused on children with learning disabilities, demonstrating her deep investment with vulnerable children providing the love and care needed to develop them into their full potential. Kathleen returned to graduate school while working as a teacher. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Education and Counseling from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, specializing in Learning Disabilities in 1976. She later completed post-graduate work in Supervision and Administration from Seton Hall. Kathleen spent most of her career in the East Orange School District and retired in 1992 after twenty-five years.

A devout Christian and faithful servant of God, Kathleen was baptized and confirmed in the old St. Philip's Church on High Street and Bleeker Street in Newark. Upon her return to New Jersey in 1966, she joined Christ Church in East Orange. She served in the church for many years in a variety of roles including 20 years as Church School Superintendent. She served on the Vestry for four different terms. She was president of the Episcopal Church Women, secretary of the Altar Guild, an Eucharist Minister, member of the Outreach Committee, a member of Church Women United, Christ Church East Orange Preservation and Restoration Committee. Kathleen served on many diocesan committees and commissions. She was a member of the Christian Formation Commission since 1987 and served as vice president for communications of the diocesan Episcopal Church Women. She served as moderator, secretary and treasurer of the East Orange Discipleship Team, and was a founding member and very active since 1978. In 1977 she joined the Union of Black Episcopalians, Newark Chapter and she served on the Board of Governors of Prospect House from 1978-1990. She was involved in the Diocese of Newark Prison Ministry’s PATCH (Parents And Their Children) program, which she particularly enjoyed. She was secretary of the Jersey Explorers Children’s Museum, a member of the board of the Isaiah House and a member of the committee of formulation of St. Philip’s Academy.

Kathleen was a faithful servant of God whose life and witness serves as a powerful example for all of us.

Kathleen married a fellow member of her church, George Ballard, Sr. in November 1981. George and Kathleen traveled extensively throughout the world, as well as, served in ministry together at Christ Church for 18 years until his death in 1999.

In 2001 she began her diaconal studies to become a Vocational Deacon in the Diocese of Newark. Kathleen was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons on May 21, 2005. As a deacon, she served at the House of Prayer, Newark; St. Stephen’s, Millburn; and St. Georges, Maplewood. She was a member of the North American Association for the Diaconate.

Kathleen was a member of the Newark Museum, Newark Historical Society, Friends of the Newark Library and Friends of the Maplewood Library.

Throughout Kathleen’s life, it was her tremendous faith that helped her as she lost both of her children who loved her. In 1988, her son Paul ”Nakawa” passed away suddenly and elder son, Ralph passed away in 1992. She mourned the passing of her brothers Kenneth “Buddy” and Karl Miller. Suddenly in November 2006, she suffered the loss of her grandson Paul “Washao” Sanders. These losses were defining moments in her life. She continued to have faith in God and channeled all of the love she felt for them into her relationships with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Kathleen remained a dedicated and loving grandmother treasured by all of her grandchildren. In 2000, she relocated to Maplewood, NJ and lived for many years with her devoted granddaughter, Dawn who was her primary caregiver. Her grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren affectionately called her “Gramma Kathy” or “Mema”. They quite simply adored her and enjoyed being in her presence until she peacefully transitioned from this world. It is no doubt that Gramma Kathy is now one of the ancestors who will always be called upon by those who remember her powerful legacy rooted in the guiding principles of faith, hope, and love.

She is survived by grandchildren: Tracey Sanders-Mayo, Dawn Sanders, Dr. Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, Tayari Sanders, Rev. Lesley Tanai Sanders White (Jerome), Yucef Mayes, Ralph and Kenneth Sanders. 21 great-grandchildren (Imaani, Alexander, Avery, Bayyinah, Jihad, Marissa, Asisa, William, Madina, Hasani, TJ, Nya, Malachi R., Makenna, Brooklyn, Malachi, Shakiyah, Rafik, Kayla, Kaden, and Rafiki) and 10 great-great grandchildren. Sister Karen Williams, Brother Rev. Dr. Kurt Miller, sister Dr. Theresa Marshall, cousins, Joan Knowles and Harolyn Wing, devoted daughter-in-law Fronie Sanders, nieces, Brenda Church, Kamili Williams and Erica Holmes, nephews Anthony Williams and David Miller, several grandnieces, grandnephews and a host of beloved family and friends.

Good and gracious God, the light of the faithful and shepherd of souls, you sent your servant Kathleen to be a deacon in your Church to feed your sheep with your word and to guide them by her example; give us the grace to keep the faith she taught and to follow in her footsteps. We entrust her into your unfailing mystery of Love and Hope through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.