Thursday, February 02, 2012

The "Will" Ball - How it all Started!

My brother William Aaron Burnes lost his battle to cancer on March 13, 2006.  He was a Commercial Fisherman in Alaska for 10 years. I give you this information for a reason, please read on!!

My husband Brady and our daughter decided to go golfing one day at the Cedar Hills golf course, just 3 months after my brother passed away. While on the course, Brady takes a few practice swings and is about to tee off on the first hole when a guy about 18 years of age who worked at the golf course said...
"hey, do you need a golf ball?" 
Brady said "no I have plenty."
The 18 yr old responded, "here have this one",
and without further hesitation, the 18 yr old threw the golf ball to Brady. As Brady caught it, he saw the word "WILL" professionally printed on the ball. As he turned the ball around he saw a picture of a bear with a fish in it's mouth with the word "Alaska" printed below the image. Brady was speechless and overwhelmed at that moment because he knew that my brother Will was still with us, and he wanted it to be known.  

I often wonder who that boy was, and why he felt so impressed to give the ball to Brady even though he refused his offer. I also wonder where that ball came from in the first place. Was this a ball my brother had professionally designed while in Alaska and somehow through his hands, it made it back to us? I wish I knew. Someday I Will.

When Brady returned home from golfing, he placed the golf ball in my hand and relayed this miraculous encounter to me and I knew what I was suppose to do; I needed to find our ancestors and continue Will's work. At first I thought "this is impossible", but realized "with His help, I can do this", and began to mend my thoughts of  inadequacy and started researching. It was very difficult at first, in fact, the only form of genealogy I had was a restaurant napkin that Will wrote a few notes on before his passing; something I will treasure forever!  I knew nothing about my ancestors, how to begin, or how to build our family tree, but I knew I had a responsibility, and Will would guide me; I knew this!

For the past 7 years, the "Will" Ball has been in my office with an assurance that my brother is close by.  Today, we have over 7,000 BURNES CLAN ancestors that we are proud of and feel a strong connection to because of Will.  I picked up where he left off in his research and I am honored to be the vessel for his great work.

More Burnes Info can be found at

William Aaron Burnes 

May 29, 1967 - March 13, 2006
Semper Fi  (Always Faithful)

William Burnes - US Marines - 3rd Recon Battalion 

William Burnes  as a Commercial Fisherman in Alaska for 10 years.

William Burnes and long time girlfriend, Joell Sweeney. She stayed by his side, every second, until the end.

My favorite picture of us. Brady & Sarah Heiner on the Left, 

William and Joell on the Right. September 17, 2003.

William Aaron Burnes' Obituary


  1. Sarah, what an amazing story! I am so proud of you for doing so much genealogy and relying so strongly on the Spirit and your brother Will to help. That is so great!

    Holly (Lange) King

    1. Thanks Holly. I am really blessed! It's an amazing journey!!

  2. Sarah,
    As you know your family means alot to me. I love you guys so much and think several times through out my day about each of you and wonder how things are going. William was born just two days after me. 5/27/1967 I remember talking with him about our birthdays while looking over his old blazer. It is burned in my mind how we connected that day. I always will look up to him with a brotherly love and the strong example he is to me, because of his charity towards other. I remember you sharing this story and it makes life all the more real.

    1. @anonymous (CSW), thank you for kind words. I had no idea your birthday was 2 days before Will's. I am excited to hear your stories too!! You have amazing insight!
      Take care my friend!!

  3. Sarah,

    I just discovered your amazing genealogy blog. The story of your brother is so very touching. And I'm very sorry for your loss.

    It's awesome that you are continuing Will's work of researching your family history.

    1. Jana,
      Thank you! It's been a really fun adventure and my knowledge and admiration for my ancestors and grown tremendously. You probably feel the same way about your ancestors too, right?
      Take Care :)

  4. This story really hits home for me. My brother died suddenly in a car accident nearly 20 years ago. He was a pro golfer. I kept searching for him to send me a sign that he was still with us. Finally, I told him that I would know that he was with me if I were to find a golf ball in a place a golf ball would not ordinarily be found. I can't tell you how many golf balls I have come to find over the years. And they are always in the oddest places. I have quite a collection now. I have no doubt that Will meant for you to have that golf ball. Maybe he knows my brother and he shared what he was doing! LOL! Thank you for sharing your story!

    Teaching With Moxie