Dr. Joseph R. Balach, 98, WWII veteran and retired dentist, passed away peacefully on Saturday, February 15th. Known and loved by many, “Joe” treasured and nurtured the relationships he developed over decades. He used his many talents (gardening; oil painting; sausage, salami, wine and liqueur making; blueberry picking; spit barbequing; and speaking multiple languages) to bless others throughout his life. He made each person feel like the most important person in the room, always with uncommon curiosity, kindness, generosity and humility.
Joe was accepted into the US Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program in 1942. He overcame daily air sickness to become a pilot and captain of the Shirley Ann, a Martin B-26 Marauder mid-range bomber. He flew 57 WWII missions over Europe which included bombing Utah Beach on D-Day. Following the war, he joined the US Air Force Reserves, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1971. He married the love of his life Shirley Ann Stretar in 1948 and started a family before graduating from the U of M School of Dentistry. Practicing dentistry in St. Paul Park, he felt a strong pull to return home to Duluth to support his recently-widowed mother. Once he set up practice in West Duluth, he accepted numerous leadership positions in Duluth civic and business organizations, his church and both his WWII squadron and dental school class reunion organizations. He led the effort to install a Geological Garden at Stowe Elementary in his home community of Gary New-Duluth and fiercely fought against a demolition landfill. To honor his many years of service, the mayor proclaimed Memorial Day 2017 Joseph Balach Day for the City of Duluth. At every turn, his life was punctuated by service to his family, church, country and community.
A perennial optimist and lifelong learner, Joe approached each day of his life with joyful expectation. Despite suffering a stroke 4 ½ years ago, his sweet nature, independent spirit and concern for others over himself remained to the end. Joe’s family wishes to express our deepest gratitude to Lori (Malander) Anderson for her loving care which allowed him to remain at home with his wife.
Preceded in death by parents Mile and Mary; brothers George, Milan and Steve; and sisters Katya (infant), Sophie Collard and Mildred Nevin. He will be greatly missed by his wife Shirley; children George (Linda), Patty Erickson (Michael Mumey), Therese and Tanya (Michael) Dmowski; grandchildren Jorrie, Eric and Chad Johnson, Adam Balach, Joseph Dmowski and Claire Pince; great-grandchildren Tiffany, Austyn, Will, Calvin, Kole, Kygo and Laila; brother Robert and sister Anna Mae Westerlund; and many nieces, nephews and kumovi.
Memorials preferred to St. George Serbian Orthodox Church or GND Rec Center. Visitation at First Memorial Chapel (4100 Grand Ave.) on Friday, Feb. 21st from 5:30 to 8 PM with Pomen at 7 PM. Funeral service at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church (1216 – 104th Ave. W.) on Saturday at 11 AM with visitation one hour prior. Interment at Oneota Cemetery.