John E. Balbach
March 1929 – Nov. 2020
John E. Balbach was born in Streator, IL, then came to California and worked at Lawrence Livermore Lab as a nuclear lab inspector for 23 years. John retired on April 9, 1990 as a top level Mechanical Inspector III working at Site-300. He spent 23 years working in MFD shops. John started his LLNL career as a Machinist in the Tubaloy shop. After three years he moved to Hydro Assembly where he spent the next ten years. John then left LLNL to operate a Montgomery Ward store in Gilroy, CA with his wife Bobbie. After seven years John returned to LLNL in 1980 and was asked to be an Inspector. He worked in the 321 Lab for five years and then transferred to Site-300 to do a one-month assignment in Manteca, which lasted five years.
He then moved to Waterford, CA and volunteered at Stanislaus Parks. He was a long-time community leader, volunteer and advocate for parks and recreation in Stanislaus County. He was appointed to the Stanislaus County Parks and Recreation Commission on July 11, 1995. He served as a member-at-large for Supervisorial District 5 from July 11, 1995 to December 31, 2004. In 1980 he joined California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA). A letter was written on behalf of John from CORVA supporting the trailhead at Frank Raines Regional OHV Park. He began enjoying the trails at Frank Raines Regional OHV Park and working with other volunteers, he helped to provide a safe and exciting experience. In 1994, he served as the Northern Director of CORVA. Working with Stanislaus County, he was a part of the decision-making team that purchased additional land for the regional park and was instrumental in securing additional grant funding on behalf of the County for this regional facility. He was a member of work parties that helped to beautify the park by painting tables, pouring concrete in front of the Recreation Hall, painting bathrooms and the entrance station, cleaning signs, constructing the helicopter pad, building water bars, trail management, and planting trees and flowers.
For over 20 years, as a lifetime member of the East Bay Hi-Tailers and the OFF-ROAD/OFF-HIGHWAY Buggy Club, John was an integral part of the success and growth of Frank Raines Regional Park. He also assisted with projects at La Grange Regional Off-Highway Vehicle Park where he helped install 4,000 feet of irrigation pipe to water the new trees that were planted in the area. In addition, his group, the East Bay Hi-Tailers, put new shingles on the bathroom and helped with maintaining the entrance station.
John is best known for always having a story or two or three or more to tell. He was never at a loss for words. Very good sources claim that John usually spent all week getting ready to go on a “buggy ride” that weekend and then spent all the next week fixing what he broke. That reminds us of an interesting quotation made by John on a Rubicon Run. It seems that John and Pete Tolbert somehow got high centered on a large rock and when Martin Lang asked John for some film to record this event for posterity he was told “to hell with the film”.
They moved to Denair, CA, and John truly loved volunteering; it kept him busy. He finally retired in 2014 and lived in Denair for 18 years. John was a member of the Sheriff’s Dept. STARS Program for 14 years. The STARS Program is a volunteer program, in which active adult citizens give of their time, knowledge, and life experiences. STARS objectives are to organize senior citizens in a volunteer program to benefit the community. Volunteers are utilized to promote better community safety and to become the “eyes and ears” for law enforcement.
John & Bobbie enjoyed traveling and were big NASCAR fans. John was a ‘Rusty Wallace fan’ and Bobbie was a ‘Jeff Gordon fan’.
We will miss him enjoying his glass of red wine and cigar on Saturdays when family would all visit. We will miss his laughter, stories, knowledge, Thanksgiving traditions and unconditional love, kindness and patience.
John was preceded in death by his parents John Sr. and Hazel, his sister Katherine, his son Robert, and his faithful sidekick Chucky. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Barbara (Bobbie) Balbach of Denair, CA, his two children and their spouses, 4 grandkids, and one great granddaughter.