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Many people from all over the world have been touched by 
George through his work with the YMCA, Freemasonry, Horses, Music, Magic, Judo and the Olympics over the years.  If you would like to, you may share your story with others by clicking on the link below.  Pictures, Parables, Humor and Wisdom are all welcome!

And thank you for sharing your warm memories. 

Add your tribute here


I'm saddened by the loss of one of my teacher's in Judo.  George always had a kind comment when I experienced a loss at a tournament.  And offered advise and encouragement for next time.  I looked forward to seeing George on the sideline. And now I know how much his presence will be missed.

Sincere regrets for the loss of your loved one, George Balch.

Dan Mitoraj


Whenever I would see George at a shiai when I was a junior
judoka competitor, my nervousness would start to disappear for he had a calm, reassuring presence.  He would go out of his way to make everyone feel special.  It seemed like every time I won a trophy; George was the official handing me the trophy.
George always seemed to be in great physical condition, always was in shape, even when he was in his seventies.
I have a nineteen year old daughter and a five year old daughter and I want them to marry a man just like George.
George will stand out as a giant of a man in my memories, he was a true judoka and a champion in the deepest sense of the word.
Walter Lamb


It seems I've known George all my life.  I remember him refereeing some of my
matches when I was a player, and recall refereeing with him after I was
awarded my A license.  He was always a measure of consistency and integrity. 
If not perfect, George always strived to be as fair as humanly possible.  It
seems he always had a quip, or a quote, or some useful (often) humorous thing
to say in most circumstances.  I will miss his raspy voice and hearty laugh
at future national events.  Above all we will miss his unswerving dedication
to Judo.
                        With condolences,

                                Gary C. Berliner, MD.


Dear Elizabeth and family,


The pioneers of Judo are slowly passing away but the legacy they leave behind has been remarkable in their impact and influence they have had for those who have been fortunate enough to have known them.  George was just such a gentleman and I will always remember him for his kind words of encouragement as I moved up the referee ranks.  George was not one to hold back his enthusiasm for someone else’s success.  For that I will be eternally grateful that I knew him and hope to be able to pass this onto to other aspiring referees and judoka’s. 


My deepest condolences to you and your family as you grieve your loss.  George will be missed, but he will not be forgotten. 


Kei Narimatsu

IJF A Referee




I'm so sorry to hear about George passing. My prayers are with
you. I was out of town all last week and just found out today. I wish I
would have been here to see George, I'm going to miss him very much. I still
remember the first judo tournament that I met George at when I was 12. I
loved being around him, he was always a positive person. I feel that being
around George has made me a better person. Please don't hesitate to call if
you need anything. Your friend Bob!

Robert Grieve


Dear Elizabeth,

I just wanted to let you know you've been on my mind so much.
I was just looking at George's web page and it was so beautiful.  George
had accomplished so much in his life but most of all had the love of his


Dear Elizabeth
I am so sorry to hear about George. I have been away on vacation and didn't see this e-mail until today.
I away had a great deal of respect for George and his commitment to YMCA, and how he treated people in general. When he worked at the Flint YMCA we had a kinship, because we both didn't like someone and how he dealt with people. George kept me from leaving Flint, and told me not to worry about him, just to keep myself above him. I have always appreciated that advice. George was a good and great man who will be missed by many !  
We have just opened our new Dining Hall which has a large deck with the view of the lake. We placing great looking wood furniture on this for people to use to relax and enjoy the view.
We will place a loveseat on the deck in George's name  to remember his contributions to the YMCA and Camp Copneconic. A small gesture for a good guy.
My best wishes ! Fritz



What a sweet memorial for a special man.  I knew George when he was with the Flint YMCA, and spent a fair amount of time talking to him about the YMCA and his and my love for it.  Even when I left the Flint Y, I occasionally ran into him, and it was as though no time had passed.  He was a true gem!  He would be proud of this site, and the many friends and family he has left behind.



When I first met George, he was a judge at my first two judo matches (lost by a pin and choke),,, but I gained a real friend, who gave me good advice to tap sooner next time.  I knew George for 20 years and looked up to him.  He was a great judoka and friend.

Taylor Smith



I wish I had the pleasure of knowing George in person ---


I feel as if I DO know him, from the wonderful tributes I've read.    
I also feel that I know him, at least a little bit....
through his daughter Diane, whom I have been blessed to know for eleven years.
From the old saying, "The apple doesn't fall very far
from the tree ..." -----   I am sure that many of Diane's
terrific qualities are there because of George's influence
in her life.
So, Diane (and family)  ....  just know that my heart and prayers are with you.   

I too, watched my Dad die from cancer.    Eight years have passed, and I still get
teary-eyed, but the pain has lessened.   It's easier to
laugh and remember the good memories now.  And I
pray that you will feel that way in the not-too distant
I'll close with this lovely saying which is part of an
Eskimo legend:
Keep shining, George!!!!       ~   Pat Watanabe


To know him was to love him.  

Ron and Isabel New

Dear Elizabeth,

I was saddened to hear that George has left his Earthly life. And extend my sincere sympathy to you and your family.  I will always remember a wonderful favor he did for me, and want to share it with you.

In about 1980, when he was the director of the "Y" in Mt. Clemens, I enrolled my 12 year old son in a swimming class.  Son Jonathan had undergone several ear operations and hence had never had his head under water, let alone learned to swim.  It was bad enough that he had to be in a class with very young children, but what was really bad, he didn't want to put his head under water, and made no progress after completing the class. 

I re-enrolled him, but by this time the class instructor had lost interest in encouraging him, so he spent his time down at the shallow end, beating out rhythms on the side of the pool.  (he was/is a percussionist)  

One evening, George noticed me sitting at the pool window, and asked if I had a child in the class. "Yes" I replied, "The bid kid down at the shallow end, playing an imaginary drum on the side of the pool".  I told him about Jonathan's fear, and lack of ability to make any progress after two classes.  The next thing I knew, he had taken off  his suit, donned a swimming suit, and was in the pool helping my son.

He did this for many weeks until one night the magic happened, and Jonathan lost his fear.  I don't know who was the happiest, Jonathan , George or me.

My son and I have often spoke of this through the years, and it is a treasured memory of a very special person in our lives.

As the saying goes, "Some people come into our lives and leave an imprint that remains forever."


Blessings to all of you, 


Jan Hudock


I will miss George as many will.  His smile and constant the encouragement and support of me throughout the years will always remain with me.  As a newcomer to the Judo community 20 years ago, I met George shortly thereafter when I first started competing at the National and International level.  George would smile his unforgettable smile and cheer on the competitors.  As I started refereeing and working for various Judo organizations at the National level, once again George could be found.  George was delightful in his teaching and coaching, at least toward this referee.  He had dignity and recognized and honored others'.  Always offering a cheerful word of thanks and encouragement, George seemed to honor those giving back what they received.  Maybe because it was because he gave so much of himself.  I learned a lot from George in the small amount of time I was able to spend with him.  I am grateful for every moment and every lesson.

To his family I send my heartfelt sympathies and prayers.  And I also offer my thanks for sharing George, his spirit and this opportunity to give back.  I hope you will find many hours of comfort hearing from others that which you already know, ... just how wonderful this man, George, really was. 


Dear Mrs. Balch
and in memory: Dear George (still John Wayne for me),

I hope you remember me.. I was the exchange student in 1997/1998 and was the lucky one who could stay at Bob's and
Becky's house for awhile and for more visits after that as well. I will never forget the best Thanksgiving I had in my
life where I got the chance to meet the lovely, friendly and warm person Mr.
George Balch and you, his lovely wife, of course. It was your whole family I was allowed to
get to know, celebrating this day together with my parents and I.
I felt so close with your lovely family and will never forget all the funny and sweet stories Mr. George Balch told me.
I am thinking about your family a lot and every time I see the pictures of George he still reminds me of John Wayne. I will
never forget the day I first met him. Bob, Becky and kids drove with me and another exchange student
to your house to that amazing Rainbow Ranch, if I remember it right. I saw a sign "John Wayne Avenue"...and was curious.
Once he opened the door, I was just standing there with an open mouth watching at him..
the other student took my hand, frozen face as well and both of us said at the same time: "JOHN WAYNE!" and then he smiled..
he smiled and said "Welcome to the USA and to my house" and I really felt

George, thank you for making me smile, for sharing
some stories of your life with me and my parents (who talk about you very often)
and for being such a friendly man. You made me feel good. You'll
always have a place in my heart even if I didn't get the chance to know you longer.
But the part I know about you is important to me. And dear Mrs. Balch, I am sending you a warm and
honest hug and pray that you will cope with this huge loss. My parents are sending
prayers and greetings to you as well. I also hope to see you again one day when I will be
back to the USA.  


I am thinking of you..

With lots of love,
Rita from Germany


To my shock today I found out one of my mentors was no longer available to
talk with. I meet George in 1978 thru Les Fazekas and Ed Aikia at a judo
camp. From the very first day I felt a warm friendship and knew I had lifetime
friends. Since I not been actively teaching judo for a few years I lost touch
and now regret that I can no longer ask  any of these Great Judoka's my
questions. The last time I spoke with George he wanted to know why I had not
been promoted yet to Godan and can he help me or recommend me to the rank. He
was not one to forget you and you never needed to remind him. There is a tie
clasp of a judo throwing figure that all three judoka's had  that I always
wanted .George remembered and found one for me. I will always think of all
three as accepting me with welcome arms in judo. I know George today is looking
down from  heaven and smiling on all of us that he has touched during his
       Douglas Lyle Sherman

George Balch was a protector of children long before child abuse was addressed.  When I showed up with bruises on my face, he was the one to confront my father and warn him.  

When I needed shelter, he was there to make sure that I would not suffer.  

He showed compassion, caring and concern.  He was an outstanding mentor who could never be forgotten.

Diane (Aittama) Merrall

George was a gentleman and one of the finest referees, and very helpful in helping me form the Michigan Judo Institute.  He was a great loss to the spirit of judo.

Ron Matte

Founder, MJA


I looked up to Mr. Balch for many years.  Sorry to hear about the passing of a great man.



James Farley

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