Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls' Club
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Sheer Elegance

In Memoriam

Reverend William G. Gillespie
May 21, 1931 - June 3, 2011

Chairman Emeritus and long-time supporter, Rev. William G. Gillespie at Cote Brilliante Presbyterian Church, where he served as pastor for 53 years

Reverend William G. Gillespie came to St. Louis in August 1956, to revitalize a deteriorating Presbyterian church that had been abandoned in a changing neighborhood.  He celebrated his first Cote Brilliante Presbyterian Church service on September 16, 1956 - shepherding it into a community pillar over 53 years.

Many organizations benefited from Gillespie’s community involvement.  As Mathews-Dickey board chairman from 1975 to 2010, Gillespie rarely missed a meeting, provided invaluable counsel in the Club’s growth and development and received the prestigious "The Spirit of St. Louis" Award.  

As Harris-Stowe State University’s longest serving regent, Gillespie was honored with an honorary doctorate degree and the dedication of a residence hall in his name.  He also received honorary doctorates from Tarkio College and the University of Missouri - St. Louis.  

The former Synod of Missouri and Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery moderator also was nominated for the highest office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA.  Gillespie’s achievements were lauded by Cote Brilliante’s establishment of a scholarship fund and senior village in his honor.  Under his leadership, the church received the Danforth Foundation’s prestigious "I Dare You" Award.

Rev. Gillespie is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Martha, with whom he was the loving parent of three adult children, 13 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Herbert "Dickey" Ballentine
June 18, 1911 - January 2, 2000

Club co-founder Herbert “Dickey” Ballentine with children

The late Herbert "Dickey" Ballentine was an earnest man. Just by looking into his eyes, you knew that he was a man of deep thought. Indeed, he and Martin L. Mathews shared some very deep thoughts on a hot summer day under a shade tree in Handy Park - where they first dreamed up the idea to form a Club house for young people.

"Mr. Dickey thought of the name," said fellow co-founder Mathews. "He called me in the middle of night and said, ‘We should call it Mathews-Dickey Boys’ Club.'"

Together, they knew from the very beginning that keeping young people in positive activities and off the streets was critical. Forty years later, their belief has yielded tremendous results - a multi-faceted organization serving more than 40,000 young men and women each year.

Hubert "Dickey" Ballentine was born "under the sign of Gemini" in Sardis, Miss. on June 18, 1911. "Just 50 miles from Memphis and straight down Highway 55," Mr. Ballentine affectionately referred to his hometown. He grew up in a family of six siblings, four boys and two girls. Mr. Ballentine moved to St. Louis in 1927, a year marked by a "cyclone" that spurred many southerners to head north.

He literally married the girl next door, the late Rose May Grimes. They had four children: Richard Grimes and Crim, Kemar and Salimah Ballentine. Mr. Ballentine also had six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. For 24 years, Mr. Ballentine worked as a mail handler for the United States Postal Service, from which he retired in 1977.

An exceptional player and student of the game, Mr. Ballentine was inducted into the Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. His career achievements have been highlighted in several exhibits at the Missouri Historical Society.

One of his favorite baseball memories was playing an exhibition game with Scullin Steel in 1941 at Sportsmans Park. The exhibition took place prior to a Negro League game, in which the legendary Satchel Paige pitched for the Kansas City Monarchs against the Homestead Grays. The occasion was notable, because it was the first time that a Negro League team played in Sportsmans Park. More than 22,000 people attended the game. "I remember that exhibition like it was yesterday," Ballentine said. "Jesse Baylock was the lead off man . . . He walked. The second batter was John Brown and he struck out . . . not before Baylock stole second base." Mr. Ballentine batted third. "I hit a double off the right field wall at Sportsmans to score Baylock," he said. "Then I scored on a hit . . . It was really a thrill to hear 22,000 fans screaming at Sportsmans Park - my whole family was watching."

In a semi-pro career spanning from 1928 to 1954, Mr. Ballentine played in six all-star games and had a lifetime batting average of .350 - as recorded by the late Negro League historian Tweed Webb. Was he a homerun hitter? "No, I was more of a line-drive hitter," Mr. Ballentine said. He also had quite a glove in centerfield: "The managers all said that 'If the ball stays inside the park, he'll catch it."

The Future of Our Youth

"I co-founded the Club, because I was hoping that we would get a place to sit down once in a while to talk to young people and counsel them about life," Mr. Ballentine said. As a member of the Mathews-Dickey Baseball Commissioners, Ballentine continued to do just that until his death on Jan. 2, 2000. He was very outspoken regarding the plight of today's young men and women.

"We need to prepare young people to become parents one day - to teach young men how to be husbands and fathers, and young women how to be wives and mothers," he said.

The Three R’s - respect, restraint and responsibility - are crucial. "A child must be taught respect," Ballentine said. "You could close down half of the prisons, if children were taught respect at home. Rage and violence are symptoms of disrespect. Respect is the most important value." A good education also is something in which Ballentine firmly believed: "Reading, writing and arithmetic are the basics of education all around the world - it’s a part of life. But there are other things you need to do to bring about progress and change."

"The home is the first school and parents are the first teachers," Ballentine said. "Teaching must begin in the home in order to prepare young people for successful lives."

Ballentine received the Presidential Medal of Excellence Award in 1982 from Ronald Reagan. He always enjoyed running into young people for whom he served as a coach and mentor. "I used my image, the way I conducted my life, to set an example," Mr. Ballentine said.

Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) United Way member agency that annually provides educational, athletic and cultural enrichment programs to more than 40,000 young people from throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. Since 1960 the Club has taught youth respect, restraint and responsibility so that they may obtain credibility, integrity and accountability. For more information, call Bill Fronczak at (314) 382-5952, ext. 228.