Dennis Austin Balaam

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Dennis Austin Balaam

September 11, 1950

May 6, 2014

Dennis Austin Balaam passed away on May 6, 2014 with his family by his side. As he did both in his personal and professional life, he bravely battled cancer for the past eight years before succumbing to the disease. Dennis was born on September 11, 1950 to Donald and Marie Balaam of Yerington, Nevada. He graduated from Yerington High School in 1968. Dennis was a 4 year letterman at Yerington High, where he was inducted in the football Hall of Fame in 1994. Coach Mike Lommori always referred to Balaam's tackling technique as the "Balaam Necktie."

After graduating from high school, he left the small town of Yerington and headed for The Biggest Little City, where he enrolled in the University of Nevada Reno and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice.

Dennis began his career with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office in 1971 as a Reserve Deputy. In 2000, he became the 23rd Sheriff of Washoe County, the first Sheriff in 64 years to come up through the ranks to assume command of the agency. As a native Nevadan, he proudly served the citizens of Washoe County for 35 years. His many accomplishments included bringing the Amber Alert to Northern Nevada, acquisition of an armored SWAT vehicle to facilitate the protection and rescue of civilian and public safety personnel, improvements to the Civil Protective Custody/Intake area of the Detention Facility and expansion of the Sheriff's Office inmate work programs.

Sheriff Balaam retired from the Sheriff's Office in January 2007 after 35 years of service to the community. He was always an active member of the community, supporting a variety of charities and public service organizations. He was a founding member of the Children's Cabinet in Incline Village. In 2000, he founded the Washoe County Honorary Deputies Association, a non-profit organization through which the members of the community and local businesses support the mission of the Sheriff's Office along with a number of worthy causes such as the annual "Shop with the Sheriff" event.

Dennis loved his family, friends and community and always enjoyed a great round of golf. He was a wonderful Grandfather, who never missed his grandchildren's sporting events or school functions. Dennis will be remembered for his great personality, quick wit, and a smile that would light up a room.

Dennis is survived by his wife Diane Balaam, his son, Assistant Sheriff Darin Balaam, wife Heather and grandchildren David, Logan, Devon and Paige Balaam of Sparks, daughter Jenny Penrod, husband Dean and grandchildren Alyx and Patrick of Sparks; son Brian Barnes, wife Becky and grandchild Dominic of Sparks, his father, Donald Balaam and brother Bruce Balaam, sister-in-law Ellen and two nieces of Yerington.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm at the Boys and Girls Club, 1300 Foster Dr. Reno NV 89503.

Memorial donations can be made to Washoe County Honorary Deputies Association(TAX ID#: 88-0451723)

You can shed tears that he is gone,

Or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close you're eyes and pray that he'll come back,

Or you can open your eyes and see all that he's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him,

Or you can be full of love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,

Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him only that he's gone,

Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind,

Be empty and turn your back,

Or you can do what he'd want:

Smile…open your eyes…

Love and go on.

You are invited to share a condolence message in the Book of Memories at the website


Funeral Home
Walton's Sierra Chapel, Reno
875 West 2nd Street Reno, NV 89505
Funeral Home Details
Published in Reno Gazette-Journal on May 28, 2014
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