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Remembering Eugene ‘Gene’ Ballock

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, July 14th, 2011 at 7:51 pm in Contra Costa County, Lafayette, Orinda, Walnut Creek.

Eugene Ballock, a former principal of Lafayette, Orinda and Walnut Creek schools, has died.

Eugene Ballock, a former principal of Lafayette, Orinda and Walnut Creek schools, has died.

When Eugene Ballock took on his role as principal of Del Valle High School in Walnut Creek, he was delighted, recalls his daughter, Kim Johnson.

“He was so proud of Del Valle High School when he got there,” she said, as she reminisced about her father, who died July 3. “It was beautiful. It was the newest school in the (Acalanes Union High School) district, even though it was 25 years old.”

Many years later, in retirement, Ballock returned to the school (which was closed and used by the city) for recreational activities, she said.

“We always said it was ironic that he ended up moving to Rossmoor,” she said. “He would go swimming at the Del Valle pool.”

He was married to Lois Ballock, who was a nurse at John Muir Medical Center, for 58 years.

Here’s a brief synopsis of Ballock’s career from the family’s obituary notice:

“In 1963, Eugene’s family moved north and he became principal of Inland Valley Intermediate School in Orinda. He was also principal of Stanley Intermediate School and Fairview Intermediate School in Lafayette.

Eugene was the final principal of Del Valle High School in Walnut Creek. He became principal of Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek in 1979 and retired in 1989. During his retirement he was Student Teacher Advisor for Chapman University.”

Since her parents didn’t have a lot of money, the family regularly visited the Pleasant Hill library, Johnson said.

“He checked out books on every subject matter you can imagine,” she said. “He was a real history buff. So, in his retirement — and throughout his life — he collected books. He had an eclectic collection that included books about President Lincoln and World War II and the Civil War and fighter pilot jets. He loved aviation. He went to his last book club meeting a couple weeks before he died.”

Ballock also loved golf, camping, fishing and his career, his daughter said. Many of his retirement golf buddies were former principals of schools such as Campolindo and Miramonte High, she said. Some were former teachers who had worked for him.

“It’s like none of them had time to play golf in the real (working) world,” she said. “They were all his friends.”

Johnson said she was incredibly touched by the comments that many of his past students have written in the online guest book that accompanies his family obituary.

“As his daughter, you don’t see your dad in the same perspective that other people saw him,” she said. “I knew he was a good man. I knew he was honest and loyal to a fault and had excellent character.”

But, she also knew him as the dad who sometimes irritated her because he wouldn’t let her sleep in on weekends. The comments, she said, gave her a stronger appreciation for how he touched others in life-changing ways.

“I have a friend and she had him at Fairview, Del Valle, Las Lomas,” Johnson said. “She said she didn’t have a good relationship with her own father and he (Ballock) was the first man she ever respected in her whole life. He made such an impact on her life.”

Another former student commented: “Mr. Ballock was a ‘good egg,’” Johnson said. “That’s true. He respected the law. He knew what was right and what was wrong. He was a man of great dignity.”

But, Ballock also had a fun side, Johnson recalled.

“He had a great sense of humor,” she said. “He told stupid jokes all the time.”

Johnson said her father stood out in the memories of many past students, including one who recognized him when the family was vacationing in Canada.

“They remembered him and he remembered a lot of kids’ names too,” she said. “Not just the good ones and the bad ones, he remembered the ones in the middle too.”

Ballock’s health took a turn for the worse after surgery on his stomach five years ago, Johnson said.

“He had been battling complications from that,” she said. “The last year was a struggle for him for sure. He’s the one who didnt’ get the memo he was dying. He just wanted to be here.”

When a minister recently asked Ballock what he was most proud of, Johnson said he responded: his family.

“He was very proud that all three of us kids like each other and we get together and we take care of our mom and we took care of him,” Johnson said.

Even though her father bought lottery tickets every week, he never won, Johnson said.

“But I think he would say he won the lottery, because he had this great family,” she said. “The fact that we love each other — I think that made him most proud.”

The family expects about 300 to 400 people at his memorial service at 2 p.m. Saturday at Walnut Creek United Methodist Church, 1543 Sunnyvale Ave. in Walnut Creek.

In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Walnut Creek United Methodist Church Memorial Fund, 1543 Sunnyvale Avenue, Walnut Creek, CA 94597 or Hospice of the East Bay, 3470 Buskirk Avenue, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523.

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