Springville songwriter Jack Yellen is best remembered for writing the lyrics to "Happy Days Are Here Again" and other classics.
But he also penned a letter that changed the lives of a young couple in Berlin.
It was 1939. Yellen needed a farmhand for his Springville farm, so he wrote the letter from Hollywood to a Jewish agency in Berlin that was helping Jews flee from Germany in the days before World War II.
The young couple, Hertha and Arthur Ball, had been working with that agency, hoping to flee Germany for Australia. But here was their ticket out of the country, with someone to sponsor them in the melting pot known as America.
The Balls came to this country, and before the couple prospered as cattle breeders and became among the largest landowners in Clarence, Hertha Ball used to deliver eggs to the back door of the Westwood Country Club in Amherst in the 1940s.
Late this afternoon, Hertha Ball will enter the Westwood Country Club by a different entrance, as the guest of honor at a big birthday party.
At age 100, she still does the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, and she's been active with the Brandeis University Women's Committee and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. A voracious reader and prolific writer -- both in letters and diaries -- Ball also endowed a creative-writing program at Park School.
She and her daughter Tina own and manage their 250-acre farm, Hertina Farms, on Main Street in Clarence, along with a commercial land management company, H&T Management.
All this from a woman who came to America only because of Yellen's interest in helping resettle German Jews.
To make ends meet when the Balls came to America, Hertha Ball worked in a hat factory decorating hats for a penny apiece, her daughter recalled at her mother's 90th birthday party. She also helped her husband on his cattle farm by driving cows to the stockyards, and she delivered eggs to the country club.
"Here's a woman who came here with nothing. My father didn't even speak English," Tina Ball said. "It's the American dream. She lived it, and it's not so easy to do anymore. Maybe it wasn't easy back then, but she made it look easy."
Hertha Ball doesn't attribute her longevity to any secret potion or diet or exercise regimen.
"People should enjoy all that life has to offer," she said on the eve of her big birthday. "I have many good friends and a loving family, and I never overdid anything."
"If so, I want to forget it."
Hertha Ball has earned a reputation as a classy, polite woman, a woman who loves words and knows how to smile.
"You can do anything with a smiling face," she said. "That makes everybody happy. You should appreciate every day. It's a special gift, a present."
At her 90th birthday celebration, her daughter uttered some prophetic words:
"Don't throw out the candles," Tina Ball said. "We'll be back in 10 years."e-mail: email@example.com