I worked for Gene Ballock at Inland Valley Intermediate in Orinda from 1963 to 1969. Part of that time we drove in to work together. We joked, we commiserated, we developed a strong friendship that lasted 42 years.
Much has been written about Gene’s exemplary character by friends and former teachers and students. All of it is true. I want to emphasize one particular attribute. Gene wasn’t a man that put himself above others. He enjoyed people regardless of age. Good humor characterized him. He enjoyed playfulness, even when the lightheartedness happened at his expense.
One day after lunch recess a student brought a large snake into my classroom. I had the boy climb on top of the tall cabinet next to the room’s main doorway. I told Gene over the phone,“We have a situation here.” A minute later he appeared in the doorway. He took two steps into the room. Sensing a prank, he peered at me and then at my suspiciously attentive students. The boy dangled the snake directly above Gene’s head.“Look up!” I said. Gene did so, flinched, and propelled himself violently backwards, like a balloon driven by suddenly released air. My students laughed and laughed. So did I. So did Gene, after he had regained his composure.
Gene Ballock was a unique individual. He was the right kind of public school educator. He was the best kind of person any man could have as a caring friend.