Dennis “Denny” Lee Ballard (pictured), a longtime jewelry “road warrior” known for his unstinting devotion to his retail clients, died on Jan. 4 of cancer. He was 80.
Growing up, Ballard was an altar boy in the Catholic Church. He attended Ohio State University and played football for legendary coach Woody Hayes.
He started in the industry working at the jewelry counter at F&R Lazarus & Co.
“He became friends with the ArtCarved group,” says his son Kevin, who now serves as the executive vice president of sales and operations at the Diamond Cellar in Columbus, Ohio. “He joined them, and that was his first real experience in the jewelry industry.”
Ballard eventually spent 55 years selling jewelry for a variety of companies, including the D’Annunzio Group and M. Fabrikant & Sons. He also worked as a merchandising consultant for retailers and was a key executive at Justice Jewelers in Springfield, Mo., in the mid-1990s, helping to build that retailer.
As a diamond salesperson on the road meeting clients, Ballard was known for helping stores with everything from sales training to inventory control, as well as for his distinctive attire: a sharp suit and “statement” tie.
“His world was the jewelry industry,” says Kevin. “It didn’t matter if you were a $1 million store, or a store just trying to get off the ground, he helped them all. He didn’t do it for the money, he did it for the love. His passion for the industry knew no bounds.
“He was that breed of road warrior that doesn’t necessarily exist today,” his son adds. “He believed that there’s only one thing you truly control in life, and that is your word. Your word is literally everything.”
Other interests included listening to jazz, fine wine, and watching his beloved football team, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Dennis Ballard is survived by Karen, his wife of 23 years; three sons; two grandchildren; and one sister.
A memorial service will be held on Feb. 23 at Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home in Springfield, Mo.
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