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My Friend George

It is past 10:30 pm on the west coast. Liz Balch just called me to tell me that her love, her best friend and her soul mate, George Balch past away tonight.

I didn't know how I would react to this news. I've know George for over 50 years and I visited him a couple of weeks ago to have him laugh at some of the crazy things he has done and seen in his lifetime. We cried a lot, too, but they were mostly tears of joy for being allowed to have such a wonderful life.

He was a great mentor to me. I became a YMCA Director because of his influence, and I've tried to follow him in his quest to make his life important through judo training. If anything, I've learned to smile at life's disappointments and to delight in life's pleasures because that is what George did.

George has affected many of you. Some directly by being your friend and mentor, too. Some indirectly, by being my friend and letting those parts of him that were in me rub off on you.

George believed that we were put here for a purpose and that we needed to let our lives shine on other's. There is a star in the sky tonight that is shining brighter. It is a spirit that can remind us of our purpose. Remember him.

God Bless you all.


                            Jim Cornforth

Elizabeth & Family,
I admired no man more than I admired George.  I just wish my two daughters someday marry a man just like George.
I betcha he is seated with the archangels!
Walter Lamb

Dear Elizabeth:
I've met a lot of people in my 75 years, but I can count only a few I would consider real, true friends.  George is one of those who I would place at the head of my short list.  I've known George for some 50 years during which time I've grown  to appreciate his honesty and loyalty but, above all, the enthusiasm which he brought to every project or undertaking.
We were stunned by the devastation of his illness and feel helpless to do anything to comfort such a gentleman and dear friend.
Our prayers are for you both.

and Jeanne Pohl

Dear Mrs. Balch:

 My name is Jerry Jackson.  I’m a friend and admirer of your husband.  From the first day that I met him many years ago at the Midwestern Judo Championships, I knew I was being introduced to a very special man.  He was one of the leaders directing and managing the tournament.  As a student and novice of the sport, I sat and listen to him intently.  He had a engaging smile and he talked about Judo with love and passion in his voice.  As I watched him, I thought to myself, if a guy could love something this much and talk about it with so much enthusiasm, I’m going to have a wonderful experience learning Judo and I was right.

Because I lived in Dearborn, I joined the Detroit Judo Club under the leadership of John Osako who was my coach, mentor and also a dear friend of your husband.  I would practice everyday and go to tournaments to test my skills.  Tournaments were complex events.  There were organizational problems, rules to understand and communicate, people to direct and a hundred of other things that must be accomplished to produce a professional competition.  The one man who I saw at every event was George.  He was an icon, a symbol of stability and reliability to a sport where most people would come and go after they achieved a certain amount of success.  Not George, however, he was there for the long run because Judo was in his blood.  Judo was a part of this soul and he shared his love for this sport with everyone.  He could never get enough of it and he never stopped learning about it.  He was totally fascinated and intrigued by each technique and he admired the great competitors.

The last time I saw George was at Noboru Saito’s Dojo last summer where I took the picture attached in this message (I’m the man standing to the right of George).  It was also the first time that I had seen George in 28 years.  When we made eye contact, we joined in a heart felt embrace and exchanged memories from the old days.  I was so happy to see George because he always had a smile for everyone around him.  It had such a positive affect on all of us. 


After explaining to George that I had been away from Judo since 1982, he encouraged me to get involved again.  He was always recruiting volunteers and he led by example.  There aren’t many people who volunteered more than George.  He was the ultimate “Go to Guy”.  If any young man wanted to see an example of a “real man”, they could look to men like George.  He is a man whose legacy will be charity, compassion, dedication and love for others to name a few.


George will always inspire me and few people in my life have touched me with such sincerity and kindness as George.  Jerry Wee and I have talked many times about the endearing people in our lives and those who have had a profound influence over us; George Balch ranks among the most loved by us.  Every one I know shares our sentiments. 


I’m so pleased the friends of George have created the U.S.J.F George C. Balch Education Scholarship Fund in his honor.  He truly deserves our love and recognition for a life of dedication to the sport of Judo.







With all my love,

Jerry L. Jackson

Dear friend,
Thanks so much for the update on George--and you. I was so very grateful to be able to simply hold his hand for a few minutes--it will always be with me. Also, the little time we were able to spend with you was a wonderful blessing. There is really nothing more that I can verbalize. You know how much we love both of you.
I have attached a little story about an experience that helped me pass through the valley--as you are doing now.
May God give you his peace, grace, and strength.
Ron & Ruth

Hi George,


     It's taken me over 35yrs to call you anything but Mr. Balch.     It may come as a surprise to you but I often have difficulty expressing myself in person.     There were so many things I wanted to say to you yesterday when we spoke on the phone, but I was in my car with Noboru & Neal Makki and I just couldn't bring myself to speak of such personal feelings in front of other people, even though we are good friends.     I actually remember the 1st time I met you.     It was at a shiai.     I think your words of encouragement helped me stay in judo.     I know your positive attitude and kindness have helped and encouraged many people to stay and contribute to the sport we all love.     I cannot think of my life without judo, and I cannot think of judo without you, John Osako or Noboru.     I know that judo is richer for having you involved in it.     I know my life has been.     I know I should have said these things before, but as I said I often have difficulty expressing my feelings.     As it turns out, today was a very busy work day and tomorrow promises to be also, but if at all possible I would like to call or see you this week.



George -

 We have shared trials and tribulations together in the sport of Judo and
 Masonic activities and have always prevailed.  Just wanted you to know my
 thoughts and prayers are with you during your current battle for health.

 "Courage is fear that has said its prayers." -- Dorothy Bernard

 Take care,

 Gail Stolzenburg

Dear George and Liz,

 I just wanted to let you know that you have not been out of my thoughts
 I heard about George going into the hospital for his surgery.

 George, since I have returned to judo these last several years, you, more
 than anyone, have helped me and guided me to do the best that I can.
 you very much for your support and guidance.  I will never for get your
 leadership and abilities to make difficult situations workable.  I hope
 I can follow your example in helping others realize their potential.

 Thank you for being my friend.

 With Love,



Hi Liz:
    I thought this was particularly appropriate.
"Think where man's glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such friends." W.B. Yates
    The weekend was a blur, a whirlwind. I feel so honored that I know your dear husband. And to know you. You are providing such gentleness and showing such strength that it overwhelms me. Yet I know that you cannot nor would do less.
    I had a hard time tearing myself away. It had to be done, but it was difficult non-the-less. If you can, please continue giving my hand squeezes and hugs to George. And to you.


 God bless,




it often takes an extraordinary situation to ferret out the things that matter.  Case in point: it is my good fortune and pleasure to know you; you are an honorable and caring man.  My thoughts and prayers are with you.


Keith Sheppard, Sandan


Dear Elizabeth:

  I have always admired how George conducted himself and how he
refereed without bias and most professionally.  I am glad that one of my former
students is taking good care of George.  My best to George and Dr. Paul

 Sincerely,  E.K. Koiwai, M.D.




 I can cut through the years as if with a knife to the sixties when I was
 a boy arriving for many a shiai with butterflies and nervousness
 dominating me mentally and physically.  It seems like you were at almost
 every shiai I entered and when I spotted you I would somehow get more
 self-assured and relaxed.
 I feel  your calm, warm demeanor was contagious and I would gain
 confidence by your presence.

 You always made me, and my brother Bill, feel as if we were special and
 I want you to know this.  It was always a treat to be handed a trophy by
 you at the end of shiai whenever I was lucky enough to win one.  In
 fact, when I was a bit older while on the judo team at MSU

 I believe it was you that handed me my first place trophy at the Big Ten
Championships held at Ohio State in 1972.  Attached hereto is the
 photograph.  It is not the best picture in the world but I am certain
 that is you handing me the trophy.  To this day I am most proud of that
 George I want you to know that I am allied with you in spirit, thought
 and prayer as you commence your recovery.

 I consider you a gentleman, a man's man and a judo champion in the
 deepest most profound sense of the words.

 Looking forward to speaking with you soon.

 Take good care champ.

 Walter Lamb


I remember George in the old days 1960's.  He is unquestionably one of
Americas great judo leaders.  He is an example of what we hope our sport
produces, but very few can attain.  George is there, but not because of judo.  It's because
he's George.

Judo is a benefactor for all who see him think, 

" how great,  I'd like
to be like him. If I continue my study of judo maybe I can. "   

They don't know he's our best advertisement ready made.  
Please count my prayer in amongst his many friends and admirers.  




Dear Mrs. Balch:

 It pains me greatly to hear the news of George.  I've
 know him or of him for 30 years now.  The last decade
 has been instrumental in the development of my skills
 in judo, refereeing, and in general of being a good
 person.  Over that period we've spent a lot of time at
 tournaments, clinics, and seminars.  I can truly call
 George Sensei, but most of all and best of all I can
 call him my friend.

 Elizabeth if there's anything you need or anything I
 can do please let me know.  For everything he's done
 for me I couldn't repay it in my lifetime.  And also
 could you let me know if he's aloud to have visitors I
 would love to come and see him and yourself. 

 Paul Jordan 



 Thanks for notifying us of George's passing, although the news is so

 It is so sad to lose such a fine man and my Judo brother. His picture
 resides next to that of Jigoro Kano on my office wall, so I will always
 keep him in my thoughts.

 May God bless you and your family.

 Jim and Ellie Walmsley







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