8. In memory of Officer Thomas Ballman
Ten years ago today, Josh Ballman lost his father, a Kirkwood police officer, in a shooting at a Kirkwood City Council meeting.
On Feb. 7, 2008, a shooter opened fire at a Kirkwood City Council meeting, leaving six dead and two injured. Police officer Tom Ballman was among the fatalities. He is survived by his wife Cindy and his two children, Josh and Rachel.
“Dad went to work and I went to school, a normal day in Kindergarten,” sophomore Josh Ballman said. “At about seven o’clock at night, I remember I was watching a TV show and I heard my mom crying from upstairs. She told me there was an accident at the Kirkwood City Hall.”
Tom had graduated Northeast Missouri State before he entered the Marine Corps in 1991, honorably discharged in 1995 as a Sergeant. His humorous and hardworking personality were made example of when he received the titles of ‘Most Popular Cadet’ and ‘Best All-Around Officer’ at Eastern Missouri Law Enforcement Training Academy prior to joining the Kirkwood police force in 1999.
“Being a police officer and what they have to go through is very underestimated,” Josh said. “There are a lot of dangers and really hard work involved.”
In 1999, Tom married Cindy Ballman. As Tom’s family grew upon the arrival of Josh and Rachel, so did his love for kids.
“All the kids loved to play with him,” Claymont elementary school principal Aaron Wills said. “At first, it was probably because he was in his police uniform, which they thought was very impressive. But after a while, they learned that he was just a caring man who was a lot of fun to be around.”
Tom spent a lot of his free time on the elementary school playground with his children, often playing kickball.
“With a bit of a sheepish look, he told me that he had accidentally kicked a ball on the roof of the school. He wanted to apologize and ask if there was any way he could help get the ball back down for [the kids],” Wills said. “I could only laugh and admire his honest and playful spirit. Here was a dad who was doing what all the best dads do: playing with his son, being a positive role model for all kids, admitting a mistake when necessary, and sharing himself with others for their benefit.”
Cindy believes Tom’s kind-heartedness would continue to radiate as his kids would become young adults.
“Tom loved working with kids and it would have been awesome to see how he would have continued to interact with [the community] in high school,” Cindy said. “He would have been building sets for musicals and plays and for the marching band.”
Today, Rachel attends Parkway West Middle School and Josh participates in the marching band and wrestling team. Cindy has been with her partner David for six years. Josh and Rachel now have five step-siblings and a father figure to look up to.
“I’ve changed a lot for the better and the worse. It made me a stronger person,” Josh said. “As time has gone on it’s easier to talk about.”
Josh’s experience has motivated him to support organizations providing aid to families of fallen first responders. The Ballmans are benefactors of Backstoppers, a St. Louis organization serving 15 Missouri and five Illinois counties, and currently assists 80 families with 65 dependent children.
“[Backstoppers] helped us keep our house, pay medical bills, everything you don’t think about,” Josh said. “People should donate to Backstoppers to help out and do whatever they can to help police officers and their families. They need it the most.”
Parkway West alumni Brant Baldanza, owner of The Shack Breakfast and Lunch will provide customers with the opportunity to buy ‘Backstopper Bucks’ in increments of $10, $20 and $100 during the month of February after a two-year hiatus from the annual fundraiser.
“A big reason why we began our Backstopper month was because of [the Ballman] family,” Baldanza said. “[They] inspired me and made a difference in my life.”
Ten years later, the impact of Officer Tom Ballman continues to inspire and initiate change in the community.
“We lost a wonderful person that tragic day ten years ago, but his positive influence will be felt for a long time to come,” Wills said. “He was a role model for us all.”