Duane “Fritz” Balk

Friday, January 19, 2024 3:55 pm

Duane Anthony “Fritz” Balk, age 86, of Waucoma, a cherished husband, father, and friend, passed away on Jan. 19, 2024, at the Gundersen Palmer lutheran Hospital and Clinic in West Union, after a courageous battle with dementia and heart failure. Born on Jan. 6, 1938, on the family farm in Waucoma, Iowa, Fritz entered the world just after his twin sister, Dorothy, to the delight of his parents, Nick and Dolly (Bradley) Balk.

Fritz’s early life on the farm set the stage for a lifelong passion for agriculture and a strong work ethic. He completed his education in Waucoma through the 12th grade, where he not only gained knowledge but also cultivated lasting friendships. It was at a local dance at the Inwood ballroom where he met the love of his life, Wilma Kuehner from nearby St. Lucas. The couple married on October 4, 1958, at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in St. Lucas, on Wilma’s 18th birthday. They embarked on a remarkable journey of love and partnership that spanned 65 years, blessed with four children who would become the center of their world.

In 1966, Fritz and Wilma moved to the Balk family farm, embracing it as their homestead. Together, they dedicated 50 years to farming and milking cows, a testament to their shared commitment to the land and each other. Their love extended beyond the fields; Fritz and Wilma were known for their graceful dance steps, often found twirling each other around at local events. The couple also enjoyed snowmobile and motorcycle rides on Sundays, relishing the freedom of the open road. Their appreciation for country music was a soundtrack to their lives, and they looked forward to their Saturday night dinners at the local White House, surrounded by family and friends.

Fritz’s role as a father was characterized by his playful spirit and nurturing heart. His children fondly recall the evenings he spent playing ball with them and the joyful wagon rides behind the mower. His commitment to family and community was evident in everything he did, from helping to start the Waucoma ball diamond to his unwavering support at his children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events.

An avid softball player, Fritz played with the Waucoma Old Timers, sharing his love for the game and camaraderie with his teammates. His affinity for John Deere tractors was more than just a preference; it was a symbol of his farming heritage and a source of pride. Fritz was also known as the “Dog Whisperer,” a title that spoke to his gentle nature and ability to connect with his beloved pets.

Beyond his immediate family, Fritz was a friend to many in the community. His willingness to lend a helping hand or simply share a friendly visit was a hallmark of his character. His presence in the neighborhood will be greatly missed, as will the wisdom and warmth he brought to every interaction.

Fritz’s legacy is one of love, dedication, and joy. He lived a life that was deeply rooted in the values of hard work, family, and community. Those who knew him will remember his laughter, his kindness, and the way he made each day brighter. As we say goodbye to Fritz, we celebrate a life well-lived and cherish the memories that will continue to inspire us.

Survivors include his wife, Wilma; children, Janet (Mike) Schmitt of Waucoma, Kenny (Emi) Balk of Marion, IA, Greg (Angela) Balk of Waucoma; twelve grandchildren, Danielle (Matt) Fox, Eric (Maggie) Sloan, Sara (Justin) Haught, Adam (Jill) Schmitt, Ben (Kalyn) Schmitt, Jordan Balk, Austin (Madison) Balk, Megan Balk, Kennedy (Aaron) Chapman, Olivia Chapman, Kennedy (Blake) Balk, Keegan Balk; 12 great-grandchildren; sisters, Dorothy (Danny) Winter of West Union, Mary (Gerry) Hackman of Ft. Atkinson; sisters-in-law, Pat Balk of Charles City, Mary (Tom) Reissner of Spencer; brothers-in-law, Don (Adrian) Kuehner of Chicago, Duane Kuehner of Decorah, Al (Cathy) Kuehner of Bloomington, MN, Marv (Sandi) Kuehner of Marshalltown; son-in-law, Larry Niebes of Horton, IA.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his daughter, Karla Faber Niebes; son-in-law, Jim Faber, his in-laws, Will & Minnie Kuehner; Brothers, Harry Balk, Robert (Elaine) Balk; sisters, Arlene (Stu) Spangler; sister-in-law, Kaye Kuehner.

Wilma and her family would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to Gunderson Lutheran Hospice, with special thanks to Carol, Amanda, Heidi, Kate and Janelle, for their excellent care of Fritz over the past year.

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