James Balk, 84
Tue, 09/07/2021 - 10:57am admin
May 12, 1937 —
Sept. 4, 2021
WAUCOMA - James Francis Balk, age 84, from Waucoma, Iowa, passed peacefully from this world surrounded by his family on Sept. 4, 2021. James was a generous man who always had a friendly smile, helping hands, and an interesting story or joke to tell.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, at St. Mary Catholic Church in Waucoma with Rev. Nick Radloff celebrating the Mass. Interment will be held at St. Rose Cemetery, rural Waucoma.
The family prays their beloved James F. Balk will rest in peace at St. Rose Cemetery, next to the farm he grew up on, with all his happy memories restored.
Friends may greet the family from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, at St. Mary Catholic Church in Waucoma, where there will be a 4 p.m. Rosary and a 6:30 p.m. Scripture Service. Visitation continues an hour prior to the Mass at the church on Wednesday.
Herman Carl and Madonna Mary (Finnegan) Balk welcomed James into the world on May 12, 1937. He was the oldest boy of nine children—Donna Ann, Barbara, James, Marie, Vern, Charlie, Mark, Delores and Judy. Together, they shared the values of faith, family and farming.
One of his many chores as a boy was helping thresh grain for local farmers. His job was to sit on a tractor that ran the threshing machine and turn it off when his father, “Pa,” gave him the sign. Along with looking for Pa’s signal, young James also paid attention to a pretty girl at one of the neighbor’s farms, who watched the threshing activity with her sister. Waving his hand at the girl with a sweet smile would eventually lead to asking for her hand in marriage.
After graduating from Waucoma High School in 1955, it was anchors away for James as he joined the United States Navy and proudly served in the Ceremonial Guard. He participated in prestigious events including services for Navy personnel buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Later, he served in the Navy Construction Battalion, better known as the Seabees, who were responsible for building infrastructure at U.S. military locations around the world. Operating construction equipment, especially an International Harvester KB100 dump truck, reminded him of how much he enjoyed machinery.
Following an honorable discharge from the Navy in the spring of 1959, James returned home. Remember the sweet girl James waved to when he was a farm boy? They stayed in touch and wrote letters to each other when he was in the Navy. She was a cosmetology teacher in Mason City. He proposed to her in May of 1959. James and his true love, Catherine Lucy Wanderscheid, were married on Oct. 17, 1959, at St. Mary’s of the Visitation in New Hampton, Iowa.
The couple began building a life together on a farm north of Jackson Junction that he farmed for 36 years, raising hogs, beef cattle and dairy cattle and growing corn, beans, oats and hay. Over the years he transformed the farm, owned by Jim and Harriet Koehler, from a property with a few buildings to a thriving homeplace with impeccably maintained IH equipment, bright red buildings and gleaming grain bins.
James named his place “The Little Empire Farm,” and it became home for the couple’s three children Roger, Dennis and Linda. This is where his kids learned to take care of animals, drive tractors, grow crops and pick rock from fields. By observing their dad, his kids learned to have faith — planting in the spring, not knowing what the growing cycle would bring, facing setbacks from bad weather, yet still believing in the bounty to come in the fall. They discovered the value of hard work (Did we mention picking a lot of rock?) and of helping others while not expecting anything in return. They learned to savor a rainy morning that meant the family could take a day off and drive to a county fair or neighboring town to explore—or go “bumming,” as he called it.
Bumming led James to a hobby that became a joy — collecting farm toys. He made close friends through collecting and proclaimed on his business card: “For the love of a toy, a man is a boy.” He built up an extensive collection, and for several years his Tru-Scale toys were on display at the National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville, Iowa. He enjoyed attending National Farm Toy Shows and served as a security guard for the annual event.
In later years, James sold his toy collection. Much to his surprise and delight, one of his toy tractors (an IH 560 with a cab) purchased for about $5 ended up selling for $6,700. He chuckled to see the early investment pay off.
After farming, James worked at Dura Automotive Systems in West Union, Iowa and then at Lynch Livestock in Waucoma. He retired at age 79 and then looked forward to visits from his children, grandchildren, great-grandkids, relatives and friends. Over the past three years, he spent his days in prayer with his wife, Catherine, at Assisted Living in Cresco, Iowa, and he became a fan of live music and bingo.
James is survived by his wife of 61 years, Catherine Balk of Cresco; and three children and spouses; Roger (Ann Kriener) Balk of Sawyer, N.D., Dennis (Susan Carrington) Balk of Cresco, and Linda (Tony) Thomas of Seattle, Wash. James was blessed with seven grandchildren, Adam (Dalyce Klain) Balk, Alex (Christina Carignan) Balk, Austin Balk, Natalie (Reid) Ellingson, Elaina (Matthew) Goodman, Madeline Thomas, Jack Bryden and Michael Thomas. He was also fortunate to meet all six of his adorable great-grandkids, Eli, Olivia, and Parker Balk and Eleanor, Esmae and Grant Ellingson.
James was preceded in death by his parents, Herman and Madonna; siblings, Donna Ann Baker, Barbara Newton, Vern Balk and Mark Balk; and brother-in-law, Bill Newton.