Don Ball, founder of Ball Homes and a major Lexington, Kentucky philanthropist, died on Friday at age 81.

Ball and his wife, Mira, founded Ball Homes in 1959, which has since built thousands of homes in Kentucky and in Tennessee. The family-owned company, which has now passed into the hands of the second generation, is ranked as one of the top 100 new home builders in the country.

Don and Mira Ball were the first recipients of BUILDER Magazine’s Hearthstone Award, among many more honors for their community service. The Balls undertook a number of charitable construction projects in the Lexington area through their Barkham nonprofit construction firm, including Virginia Place, the Hope Center for Women, Chrysalis House apartments, Shepherd’s House and the Hope Center’s dining facility. The Ball family and Ball Homes are long-time supporters of the Hope Center, Habitat for Humanity, the University of Kentucky, and many more charities and events.

“Don Ball was a modern day Horatio Alger. Truly the self-made man,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. “Yet he never lost the common touch and a heart for those less fortunate.”

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