Ralph Balgemann, 96, master mason, golfer, community volunteer

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Ralph E. Balgemann, 96, died on May 17, 2012. Born on September 12, 1915, he graduated from St. John Northwestern Military Academy in Lake Geneva, Wis., and studied at Northwestern University in Evanston. He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II as a topographical engineer in Okinawa, Japan, and was employed by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in LaGrange for 33 years, retiring in 1975 as the manager of parts warehousing.

A member of the River Forest Country Club, he won numerous golf championships in different age groups. He was a director of the Chicago District Golf Association and rated courses and ran the leader board at several tournaments.

Mr. Balgemann was also a member of the River Forest Tennis Club and attended First United Church of Oak Park, where he served as a deacon and usher. He was a member of the Scottish Rite and was a Thirty-Third Degree Master Mason.

After retirement, he became an active volunteer with the West Suburban Hospital Auxiliary and sold countless car raffle tickets for annual fundraising events. He was also a lifetime member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, the Historical Society of OP-RF, and the Pleasant Home Foundation.

He and his wife, Beta, shared a wonderful love story for over 71 years. They supported each other in their interests and in their philanthropic and community activities. In 2007 they were awarded the Margaret R. Houck Award for Volunteerism and Stewardship as well as the Concordia University award for Humanitarian Endeavor and Philanthropy. They lived in their Cavalcade of Pride Award-winning home in Oak Park for their entire marriage.

Family and friends say Mr. Balgemann will be remembered as a gentleman with a strong handshake, who was always polite and had an endearing smile that captured people's hearts. He loved cars, dogs, bowling, big band music, and sang in a barbershop quartet.

Ralph Balgemann is survived his wife, Edna (Beta) Owen; his children, Lee Balgemann and Jan (Bob) Kerr; his daughter-in-law, Linda R. Bredehorn Balgemann; his grandchildren, Bryan Balgemann, Brad (Tina) Balgemann, Wesley Kerr, and Whitney Kerr; and his great-grandchildren, Sasha Prottung and Braden Balgemann.

A memorial service will be held at First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St., at 1 p.m. on June 9.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, the Evans Scholars Foundation, or the church of your choice.

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