11 February 1920 – 4 March 1997
Elfriede E. Bähnsch was born in Kemberg, Germany, and spent her formative years in the cities of Wittenberg, Neustrelitz, and Potsdam. She graduated from the Oberlyzeum (high school) in Neustrelitz in 1937. From 1937-1938, she attended the Handels-und Gewerbeschule (trade and voca-tional school) in Potsdam, and was then conscripted into the Reichsarbeitsdi-enst (mandatory government service) in 1939, at the beginning of WWII.
Trained as a Red Cross nurse, she cared for wounded soldiers in vari-ous German Army medical facilities. Her father was killed during the first months of the war, and her older brother, a fighter pilot, was shot down over England and was later incarcerated in a Canadian prisoner-of-war camp.
After the war, Miss. Bähnsch’s proficiency in English enabled her to find employment with the American Government. From 1946 to 1952 she worked at the U.S. Engineer Depot in Berlin, with the U.S. Displaced Persons Commission, with the International Tracing Service, and in the Berlin Post Exchange. It was then that she met her future husband, Sergeant Melvin Butler Ball, U.S. Army.
Elfriede and Mel were married April 13, 1952, in Garwood, New Jersey. During her husband’s 25-year Army career, she moved about 20 times, to and from Army posts in Asia and in Texas, Michigan, California, Indiana, Colorado, and Wisconsin. She became a U.S. citizen in September 1956.
After her husband’s retirement, they settled in Rockledge, Florida, and enjoyed many happy years together. When her beloved husband passed away in 1984, Elfriede decided to return to Germany. She lived in Berlin with her twin sister, Margarethe, from 1985 until Margarethe died in 1995.
By entrusting monies to the MOAA Scholarship Fund, Elfriede Ball sought to ensure that children from military families could acquire a college education. She is said to have lived by the old German saying, “Help your-self, then God will help you.” Her actions, however, showed that her true belief was, “Give to those who are in need.”