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Manatee’s beloved cowboy dies

EAST MANATEE - Allan Randolph “Randy” Ballard, 58, of Myakka City, revered by other cowboys and beloved by generations of children for his work with 4-H, died Saturday after a long illness.

He was known for his toughness and work ethic for nearly a quarter century with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s citrus, cattle and polo divisions. He also worked for Bill Graham/Autoway Ford for 16 years.

“Randy was like a father to me and several thousand other kids who grew up in 4-H in Manatee County,” said Jason McKendree, cattle manager for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Farms. “He and my parents grew up together, and I grew up with his boys, Ron and Ray.

“He had such a impact on my life and where I am today in the cattle business. By far the toughest man that walked the Earth that I knew, he would fight cancer one day and be riding a horse the next and never show the pain.”

Ron Ballard described his father Monday as working “wide open, full-throttle all the time. He didn’t waste a day. He had more energy and more spirit than most of us could think about.”

Randy Ballard used that passion to transform himself into a creditable polo player, after the sport was introduced at SMR in 1989.

Mr. Ballard and his wife, Diana, were very involved in the livestock program and were barn stewards at the Manatee County Fair, said Kate Smith, 4-H program assistant.

Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. today at Griffith-Cline Funeral Home, 720 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Myakka Family Worship Center, Singletary Road. Burial will follow at New Zion Baptist Church, Ona. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society or to the National Kidney Foundation of Florida.

Born in Arcadia, Mr. Ballard was past president of the Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association and served with the Army National Guard.

Survivors include his wife, Diana; sons, Ron and Ray, of Spartanburg County, S.C.; five grandchildren; brothers, Denny, of Myakka City, Clinton, of Zephyrhills, Scott, of Arcadia, and Larry Cline, of Myakka City; sisters, Terri Haskins, of Bradenton, Sharon Carson, of Arcadia, and Shirley Reigle and Trish Lingo, of Myakka City; three uncles; 19 nieces and nephews; eight grand-nieces and nephews; mother-in-law, Virginia Starks; and three sisters-in-law.