Yesterday, activists and people abused by the NH court system gathered to remember Thomas Ball, who immolated himself in front of the Cheshire “superior” court in protest of the terrible “justice” system here. Sentinel reporter Kyle Jarvis was there:
A year after a Massachusetts man died of self-immolation in front of the Cheshire County Superior Courthouse in Keene, concerned parents gathered there Friday to support his efforts to reform the family court system.
Thomas J. Ball, 58, of Holden, Mass., was embroiled in a lengthy, bitter dispute with his ex-wife in Cheshire County Family Court over medical bills for the couple’s three children.
On June 15, 2011, Ball committed suicide by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting himself on fire.
Before his self-immolation, Ball sent his final statement — a 15-page condemnation of the family court system — to The Sentinel, detailing the process that led to his suicide.
“I think there was plenty of truth to what he had to say, unfortunately,” said Nicholas Haas of Hookset, who attended the memorial Friday with his wife, Samantha and their young daughter. “The sad part about what happened to him is that it was preventable.”
Haas can relate to Ball’s predicament.
“I haven’t seen these two since Sept. 26, 2009,” he said, pointing to a handmade sign held by his wife, with a picture of Haas’ two children from a previous marriage.
Two days after Ball’s suicide, Haas was jailed for what he called “perjury and false reports by the guardian ad litem.”
“Sgt. Ball was trained by the U.S. government to handle the stresses of war,” he said. “And yet he couldn’t handle the stresses of the family court system.”
Edward Bryans of Troy was also in attendance Friday, which he and other advocates were calling “fatherless day.”
Bryans did not know Ball, but, like Haas, shares a frustration with the family courts.
“Personally, I haven’t seen my own daughter in a year and a half,” he said. “There’s no due process.”
Bryans and others hope to rename the Cheshire County courthouse, calling it the “Thomas Ball Memorial Courthouse.”
Bryans believes there’s a conspiracy against not just fathers, but family breadwinners.
Ethan Allen of Massachusetts, a retired veteran of the U.S. Army who said he served in Vietnam with Ball, shared his memories of his friend.
“He was quite an individual, very intelligent, very helpful, but he was going through a lot of pain,” he said. “He was a very caring and compassionate individual.”
The group planned to walk to Central Square later in the afternoon to tell their stories and listen to speakers, which was set to include Josh Youseff, a candidate for N.H. State Senate District 7.
Kyle Jarvis can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1433, or kjarvis@keen esentinel.com.