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Obituary: John L. "Jack" Balega

Lt. Col. John L. "Jack" Balega, USAF (Ret.) died Wednesday, Dec. 29, at Emmanuel Nursing Home after a long battle involving several health issues. He was 88 years of age. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5 at David Donehower Funeral Home, Reverend Wade Dutton, officiating. Interment with full military honors will be in Oak Grove Cemetery.

Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service on Wednesday.

John Lewis "Jack" Balega was born April 22, 1922 in Shamokin, Pennsylvania to Peter and Mary (Robatin) Balega. He was raised and educated in Shamokin, graduating from Shamokin High School in 1940. Jack was united in marriage to A. Ruth Maddox, November 7, 1952 in Ft. Worth, Texas.

In his years of service with the United States military, first in the Army Air Corps and then with the Air Force, he served two tours of duty during World War II. He flew 95 fighter combat missions with the 79th Fighter Group in the Desert Air Force, later the 12th Air Force, where he was credited with having personally sunk the aircraft carrier Aquila, June 16, 1944 in Genoa Harbor. He further served as a test pilot and later performed another tour of duty during the Vietnam War.

Immediately after the war, Jack returned to Penn State University, where he studied electrical engineering and graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1948. He was then employed by Douglas Aircraft Co. before returning to active duty. While in the Air Force, he flew many types of aircraft -- including propeller and jet fighters, bombers and tankers. His service brought him to the Grand Forks (N.D.) Air Force Base in 1961, which then introduced him and his family to the Detroit Lakes area. Throughout his service, Jack would return to the Detroit Lakes region while on leave. He and Ruth retired in this area in 1992.

John L. Balega was a decorated veteran and aircraft commander. He loved the outdoors and to hunt and fish.

Jack is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ruth, of Detroit Lakes, sons: Peter and his wife Tina of Detroit Lakes, Paul of Detroit Lakes, a daughter, Patricia Bailey of Barnesville; 4 grandchildren: Kimberly Balega, Christina Balega, Jaclyn Balega and Brian Joseph Bransom. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother: Edward and a sister, Betty de Gamez.

David-Donehower Funeral Home is serving the family. Memories may be shared online at