Basil C. Balaker

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November 19, 2009

Colonel Basil C. Balaker, 90, of Mountain Top, died Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009, at the Community Living Center of the VA Medical Center. He was born in Wilkes-Barre, in 1918, and would have been 91 on Christmas Eve. He was preceded in death by his parents, Zachary and Sophie Balaker; his first wife, Florence Sabinski; sister, Olga Blackwell; and brother, Charles. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, the former Isabelle Holdren; three stepchildren and spouses, Carolyn and her husband, Shalom Levy, Mountain Top; Jay Koons and wife, Christine, Nanticoke, and Michael Koons and wife, Margie, Williamstown. He is also survived by his niece, Barbara Kohler, California; two grandnieces; seven grandchildren; as well as two great-grandchildren. Basil was a graduate of Plains High School, and was drafted just prior to World War II. He attended OCS and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant. As a member of the 309th Field Engineers, he participated in the invasion of Sicily and Italy. He was discharged in 1946 and worked for the Geological Survey for four years until being recalled to active duty for the Korean War, at which time he was on loan to the Air Force. He also served in Vietnam. Following the war, he attended George Washington University, Maryland, where he studied for two years in Military Science, and he received a bachelor's degree in law and government from the University of Maryland. Post-graduation, he studied a year at Columbia in Methods of Instruction. Among other schools attended were Command in General Staff College, Army Language School, Monterey, Calif., and two years of language schooling in Oberammergau, Germany. During his career, he received numerous awards including the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (Berlin), National Defense Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with one Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Air Craft Crewman Badge, and four Overseas Bars. His last tour of duty in Europe was part of the Four Power Mission in Germany and he was Deputy Commissioner to the Russians in East Germany. Prior to retirement, his last tour of duty was during the Agnes Flood in 1972, where he served as Liaison between the Pennsylvania National Guard and the First Army Division in Atlanta. In his civilian life, Basil was a member of the American Legion, a lifetime member of the VFW, a member of the MOAA and the Mountain Top Gun Club. He was a proud member of the Shriners and the Caldwell Consistory, and he was also a 32nd Degree Mason. He attended the Mountain Top Presbyterian Church for many years and loved to play Santa Claus for the annual church Christmas celebrations. He donated generously throughout his lifetime to many local organizations and charities, including the local libraries, and was very proud of his many donations of blood to the Red Cross. Basil had a lively interest in politics, was an avid Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies fan, and amazed his family by completing the daily New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. One of his favorite pastimes during his stay at the Community Living Center was playing Trivial Pursuit - where he rarely missed a question - and playing and winning bingo. He enjoyed his dogs and loved to spend time talking with his children and grandchildren. He loved gardening, and his spring tulips were the envy of the neighborhood. He had a lifelong love of the United States of America, the American flag and he never missed an opportunity to teach flag etiquette and love of country to the younger members of the community. He was a prodigious reader and he had a huge personal book collection. Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday from the Mountain Top Presbyterian Church, 9 Chestnut St., Mountain Top. Friends may call Sunday, from 3 to 6 p.m. at Bednarski & Thomas Funeral Home, 27 Park Ave., Wilkes-Barre, and Monday, from 9 a.m. until the time of service at church. Private interment will be held at a later date in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Community Living Center Recreational Fund, c/o VA Medical Center, 1111 E. End Blvd., Wilkes-Barre, PA, or to Kirby Marian Sutherland Library, 35 Kirby Ave., Mountain Top.

Published in Times Leader on Nov. 21, 2009