Group gathers for memorial

By Sarah Trefethen

July 15, 2011

…Thomas J. Ball died in front of the courthouse on June 15, after he lit himself on fire in protest of the court’s handling of his divorce and child custody proceedings.

This morning, friends and sympathizers of Ball’s cause gathered in the same spot to pay their respects.

“People have to stop hurting themselves,” said Dwight C. Doane of Billerica, Mass.

Doane knew Ball for three or four years, he said, through the Massachusetts-based Fatherhood Coalition.

“I actually never thought Tom would do something like this. This blindsided me,” he said.

The group of about 20 people, which included several women, held lit candles, white carnations and orange lilies. Posters of Ball’s Facebook photo bore the slogans “Did Tom really have to die?” and “It’s time to overhaul the family court.”…

…“We need to turn divorce away from the adversarial process of the courts,” Doane said. “People who get divorced, they actually loved one another. We have to treat the divorce with the same love and respect.”

Douglas George of Quincy, Mass., came to pay his respects, but did not know Ball personally…

…“A parent, man or woman, has to do whatever they can to stay in their children’s lives,” George said…

…The mood of the event was not angry, but seemed reflective and somber.

James Marques of Somerville, Mass., said he served with Ball for three years in the New Hampshire National Guard. He was “kind of shocked” by Ball’s death, he said, but also understood why he did what he did.

“That’s between him and God.”