Ralph Elias Balch, 87, completed his travels on July 5, 2022. He had no regrets about being lazy in retirement, and all who knew him respected his right to sleep late. He relished that prerogative, considering it his ‘due’ after a lifetime of work and deadlines.
He was born near Nashville, Ark., the third child of Walter and Della Balch, who preceded him in death, as did his beloved wife of 24 years, Virginia Lea Macdonald Balch, whom he met at the University of Arkansas; his brother-in-law James Arnold; and son-in-law Dylan Balch-Lindsay. He is survived by his daughter, Suzanne Balch-Lindsay, Ph.D., two grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, his sister, Wilma Arnold, brother Bob Balch and his wife Dathel Balch, Dolores Balch, their respective children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and his ‘great good friend’ Gail Ahart of Cabot, Ark., with whom he shared a life-long love of travel.
Ralph’s love of travel began when, as a Hospital Corpsman in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps he was stationed in California, Oregon, and Japan during the Korean conflict. He especially loved train journeys and crossed the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe over the course of his life with family and friends. After his military service, Ralph graduated from the University of Arkansas with B.A. and M.A. degrees before beginning a career in insurance. Throughout his 44-year career as a claims adjuster, branch manager, and Vice President of insurance agencies and underwriters, he lived in five Texas cities over the years as new opportunities arose, and in Conway, AR. He took leadership roles in the insurance industry in Texas and Arkansas, including membership on a Texas Claims Association taskforce and in Arkansas as a Plan Manager for the Rural Risk Underwriters Association, on the Arkansas Auto Plan Committee, as Vice-Chair of the Arkansas Earthquake Taskforce, and as President of the Arkansas Field Club in 1998. He was recognized for his work with awards as Claimsperson of the Year in Lubbock, Texas, twice in his early career, and was honored to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Professional Insurance Association of Arkansas in 2000. Once retired to his beloved historic home in Morrilton, assisted by basset hounds and cats, he wrote two books on his family’s history and news articles drawn from his youth, mostly about his love of pranks and adventures, including an ill-fated watermelon heist in his teen years that left bullet holes in brand-new Packard that he had borrowed from his father. He was, however, despite his impish side, immensely proud of achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in 1950 at age 15, following the example set by his older brother, Bob, who had become an Eagle Scout the year before. Ralph has elected to be cremated, and at his wish there will be no memorial service. Instead, he asks his friends and family to remember him with a toast to a life well-lived and to friends well-loved. Donations to organizations supporting Parkinson’s research, Prostate or Breast Cancer Research or to your local animal shelter or humane society would, as he put it, do him proud.