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James Balog

1928 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
James Balog Obituary
James Balog

Vero Beach, FL

James Balog passed March 17, 2019, at the age of 90, from the long-term consequences of a stroke. He was a resident of Vero Beach, Florida and Spring Lake, New Jersey. He had been happily married to Alvina Bartos Balog for 68 years.

James was born September 7, 1928, in Vintondale, Pennsylvania, one of ten children of Michael and Helen Balog, who immigrated from Russia in 1906. Just three days after James began college in 1946, his father, a coal miner, was killed when the roof of Vintondale's Mine Number Six collapsed. In spite of this severe blow to his family, James went on to graduate in 1950 from Penn State University as president of his senior class and was later awarded an MBA from Rutgers University.

After graduation, he worked at Merck and Company, one of the nation's leading pharmaceutical firms. James designed procedures for the manufacture of cortisone and age 27 became Budget Director of the company's chemical division. This foundation in industry led to Wall Street, where he earned major recognition as Institutional Investor magazine's top-ranked analyst for pharmaceuticals.

In 1969, Balog joined the boutique investment research firm, William D. Witter. He rose to the chairmanship of its parent company, Lambert Brussels Witter, which merged with Drexel Burnham in 1976. At the newly combined firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert, he was eventually named Vice-Chairman for individual investor services. During this time, Drexel developed the high yield bond business, turning it into a staple of innovative finance for entrepreneurs. James resigned from Drexel in 1987.

Subsequently, Balog returned to his healthcare roots when he was appointed Chairman of the Public-Private Committee on Catastrophic Health by President Ronald Reagan. He also served on various corporate boards, including AL Labs, Elan Pharmaceuticals, Great West Life, and Galen Partners.

Whether chatting up a plumber or an electrician (James learned both trades in his youth), or in the company of Presidents Carter, Reagan, or Middle Eastern sheiks, James was a prince among princes. In 1986, along with a cohort of Wall Street luminaries, he was invited to Beijing by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, as a part of a commission that met in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square to offer advice on establishing the capital markets that still operate today.

Among his many awards, perhaps none meant more to James than as a recipient of the Penn State University Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997. The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed by Penn State upon an outstanding alumna or alumnus. The award salutes the achievements of outstanding alumni whose "personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater."

James was always ready to lend a helping hand to someone less fortunate than he. Over the decades, countless people remarked on the positive and long-lasting impact he had on their lives, the selfless time he shared, and the thoughtful perspective he offered. His family, who knew him as "Zedo," remains deeply grateful for the memories of his charm, wit, intelligence and grace. His was a protective and loving presence for his wife, Alvina, and for all their children and grandchildren. He loved to tell tales of his youth, instilling a vision of the perseverance, sacrifice, and adventure that took him from a quaint Pennsylvania coal mining town to the centers of international influence.

In addition to his wife, Alvina Bartos Balog, originally of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. James is survived by three sons and their families: James D. Balog of Boulder, Colorado, his wife Suzanne, and daughters Simone and Emily; Stephen J. Balog of Harding Township, New Jersey, his wife Rosalie, and their children, Katy, David and Alex; Michael G. Balog of Rancho Santa Fe, California, his wife Stacia, and their children Nicholas, Alexander and Annika; his brother and sister-in-law, George and Shirley Balog of Johnstown, PA, as well as a host of loving nieces, nephews and friends.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in support of the elderly to Senior Resource Association, 694 14th Street, Vero Beach, FL, 32960.
Published in the TC Palm on Apr. 14, 2019
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