Date of Birth
Date of Death
Louis E. Balika, formerly of Aurora, Ill., died May 27 at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Indianapolis.
He was 93 â€” or as he liked to tell people “almost 94.”
Mr. Balika was born on Oct. 21, 1922 in Aurora to Louis and Mary Nagy Balika. He attended St. Therese Grade School and East Aurora High School there. But some of his best education came elsewhere. He learned to be a pool shark when he went to Wisconsin to work in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp and was assigned to the pool hall, not the forest as his mother probably expected.
And in 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. His first stop? North Africa, where he had a thrill he remembered the rest of his life: Shaking hands with French General Charles de Gaulle during a parade in Morocco. From Africa, he went with the First Armored Division to Italy, where he fought in Anzio and the Po Valley with the 752nd tank battalion. There his fellow GIs dubbed him “Lucky Louie,” as he escaped injury, even when the tank he was in hit a mine.
Later he insisted he didnâ€™t drink or flirt with the Italian girls. His family doubted that, as he still remembered the words for red wine â€” vino rossa â€” and for beautiful lady â€” bella signora.
He returned home to Aurora in 1945, working at several locations including Kroehler Furniture in Naperville before being hired at Thor Power Tool Co. in Aurora. He worked there until Thor closed its Aurora factory. He retired in the 1980s from Fermilab in Batavia.
But his employment history is the least interesting things about the man his friends called Louie. He loved the White Sox, Milano cookies, a cold beer, bacon, Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller and â€” most importantly â€” his family.
He met the love of his life in 1950 when his best friend asked him to go on a blind date with a pretty nurse, Mildred Elmendorf. They were married on April 26, 1952, in Tampico, Ill., In 1953, their first daughter Julie Kay was born, followed in 1954 by Mary Beth and in 1957 by David Louis. Asked which child he loved the most, he always said “You, naturally” â€” no matter which child was asking. They lived for about 50 years on Homer Avenue in Aurora, and he remained proud of building that home himself the rest of his life.
He was a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Aurora, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
With his children and grandchildren in tow, he explored the nationâ€™s parks, including in the two RVs that were his pride and joy. He never missed a concert in which his son or grandchildren were playing, nor a graduation. And even in his late 80s, he danced at their weddings.
In 2013, he and Millie moved to Indianapolis to live with their daughter Mary Beth. There his adventures continued, including a 2014 trip to see the World War II memorial in Washington DC with Indy Honor Flight. His often-funny statements were preserved for posterity by his daughter in her Twitter account #thelouiechronicles. One example: “You can say what you will about my relatives, but they could skate.”
His life in many ways was hard. Yet he always said, and truly believed, “Iâ€™m a lucky man.”
His family knows that they were the lucky ones. He is survived by his wife and children and their spouses: Julie and Alan Isberg, Mary Beth and Richard Schneider; David and Shirley Balika; eight grandchildren, John Isberg, Kristin Brennan and Amy Shuflin; Matthew and Molly Schneider; Brian, Ben and Brett Balika; and five great-grandchildren, with a sixth on the way. He also is survived by a brother, Phil Schwartz, and sister Mary Ann Johnson, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Paul Balika and Alvin Schwartz; and a baby sister Helen Virginia Schwartz.
A visitation will be held from 4:00 â€“ 8:00PM Thursday, June 2, 2016 at Conley Funeral Home in Elburn, IL. A Celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:00AM, Friday, June 3, 2016 at St. Gall Catholic Church in Elburn. Burial will be held promptly at 2:30PM, Friday, June 3, 2016 at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, in Elwood, IL.
A Celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:00AM, Friday, June 3, 2016 at St. Gall Catholic Church in Elburn.
A visitation will be held from 4:00 â€“ 8:00PM Thursday, June 2, 2016 at Conley Funeral Home in Elburn, IL.
Burial will be held promptly at 2:30PM, Friday, June 3, 2016 at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, in Elwood, IL.