Hate to admit defeat ... I gave up trying to separate the ball joint. Was not confident about being able to overcome the snap ring on the axle either. I did replace the shaft link assembly (bolt between sway bar and control arm).
I took the new axle into a small local shop and had them do the job. I told them they could take all day or even two days, whenever they had a lull. The estimate and the charge were $50, and the turn-around time was three hours.
I think they were able to get the car in and out fast without having to wait for parts or for interaction with me, so they didn't have to tie up a bay for long. I don't think they made out bad. Do you think the charge was pretty fair? Not sure of their hourly rate. Maybe it is about $60, probably not much different from most shops around here.