ANNOUNCEMENT: Celebration of Life, Monday, April 24, 2023, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Worthington Center at Saint Martin's University in Lacey.
Written by Ken Balsley on February 7, 2011
I’ve been reading a lot of obituaries lately. I guess that’s what you do as you get older.
I check to see who died and if I know them. Even if I don’t, I read about them because I’m interested in how people lived their lives.
But, for the life of me, I can’t understand why they’re so boring. I don’t think most people lead boring lives, but that’s the way their obituary reads. He loved his two dogs. She liked to cook and was a great gardener. He worked for the state for 30 years and was well-respected by his colleagues. She loved her grandchildren.
What boring pap.
Maybe it’s because the person writing the obituaries knew only one side of the deceased. Maybe the funeral home wrote the obituary from a form. Whatever the reason, most obituaries are boring.
So--I’ve decided to write my obituary right now. I’m going to make sure it says what I want it to say. Here it is.
Ken Balsley died today. (February 28, 2023)
He was in the middle of writing a story exposing graft and corruption; pointing out the foibles of our elected officials; working on a political campaign and educating his community about its history.
He is survived by 5 children, 15 grandchildren, 13 nieces and nephews, a brother and a sister, all of whom he loved.
He is also survived by his wife Jan Teague, who taught him how to be a better dancer, a better lover and a better person.
He had dozens of friends and just as many enemies, if not more. He often said that his purpose in life was to elicit emotions from his radio listeners. Ken didn’t care if it was love or hate. “I just don’t want a community full of apathetic idiots,” he said.
Ken was an atheist. He didn’t believe in the concept of a supreme being.
But, even being an atheist, he wasn’t afraid of death. “I hope I’m wrong,” he said once. If I am, then I’m on the trail of the best story I’ve covered.”
Now, without being to egotistic, that’s one of the best obituaries I’ve ever read. I just hope Jan doesn’t have to publish it too soon.
Ken wanted this message to be read at his funeral.
Written by Ken on September 1, 2009
See "Ken Balsley died yesterday, a happy man," previously published in The JOLT.
-- Excerpted from The Olympian, March 2, 2023, pg. 2A, written by Rolf Boone
Ken Balsley was born on Nov. 22, 1942, in Charles City, Iowa. He attended Olympia High School, served in the U.S. Army and graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia in 1973, according to his book.
He went on to work as a reporter, editor and photographer for the Lacey Leader, a newspaper that was formed in 1966 and ran until about 1980. Much of the work he did for the paper was later donated to the Lacey museum, his wife said.
Ken also worked for local radio stations, the North Thurston Public Schools and in public relations, but perhaps was best known for the newsletter he started in August 1991 called Ken’s Corner and The Real News, which eventually attracted 464 subscribers, according to his book.
The newsletter went away, but he continued to write about Lacey and share his opinions, which could be strong, via a website under the same name.
Ken also interviewed local figures on Olympia radio station KGY for a weekly show called “Coffee with Ken.”
Besides his love for the city and its history, he also was a longtime supporter of Rotary International. He was a member of Lacey Rotary and enjoyed visiting the other clubs in the area. It was a big part of his social life.
Ken also served on the City of Lacey’s historical commission and parks board.
He was a paratrooper in the Army and had a marksman designation during his military service as a young man.
After learning of his death, many community members posted comments on his Facebook page.
In addition to his wife, Jan Teague, he is survived by a brother, Roger Balsley, and sister, Jan Manberg; a son, Brad Balsley; and his stepchildren, Mark Valerio, Dennis Tinney, Dawn Gibbs and Tony Valerio. He liked to brag about how many grandchildren he had but he had many nieces and nephews he loved and enjoyed as well.
Ken has 2 books out that will be available on Amazon.com soon. The latest is “Lacey, True Stories of those who built a new city.” This one is available from Jan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies can also be purchased at the Washington State visitor center. The first one is no longer in print, “A Storytellers Stories.” This will be available on Amazon soon.
Ken has a Facebook page that is very active right now. Feel free to post.
He also has a webpage, Ken’s Corner and the Real News, that will be updated with historical articles he has written. It currently has radio interviews and opinion pieces on the site.
District 5020 Governor about Ken’s Rotary Life
It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that Past District Governor Ken Balsley has died suddenly and unexpectedly.
Ken was District Governor during the 1999-2000 year, which has special significance for me because that was the year that I was president of the Comox Rotary Club. He was a mentor, an inspiration, and someone I could argue with and still admire.
Ken will be remembered as the person who introduced more people to Rotary than anyone else in District 5020. By the time he was District Governor the number of individuals he had brought into Rotary was in the range of 100. He continued to introduce people to Rotary after his term and he was instrumental in the founding of a number of the Rotary Clubs in the Olympia area.
After his term as District Governor, Ken remained active in representing District 5020, including terms as our representative on the Council of Legislation. Ken’s term as the alternate representative was due to end on June 30 of this year. PDG Mo Fritz-Roberts will complete his term.
Ken was a man of many talents, who spent his life in the communication world, including his long-standing work in radio. His Coffee with Ken broadcast was an institution in Olympia. He was a journalist, a poet, and an author of local history and autobiographical books.
Ken was married to the love of his life, Jan Teague, past Assistant Governor and current chair of the District 5020 Foundation Committee.
If you wish to remember Ken, a donation to the Rotary Foundation in his name would be appropriate, but the best way to remember Ken would be to invite someone to become a Rotarian.
P.S. from Jan. I wanted to add that donations to Rotary can also be sent to Lacey Rotary in Ken’s name.
The right words don’t exist to encapsulate who the world lost. A whole community of people are distraught.
I sit here in disbelief that I’ll never hear his teasing laughter ever again. Or hear him call each of us grandkids his favorite in a loud whisper just to make us feel special for an offhand second.
I’ll cherish the stories he told, the songs he sang, and the insane discussions he brokered in his comments.
A great humor has succumbed from the world, the traces of its impression lay upon every person he encountered.
I love you Grampa Ken, your spirit will remain in each of us forever.
A Celebration of Life, will be held on Monday, April 24, 2023, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Worthington Center at Saint Martin's University in Lacey.