FAIRMONT - While there are others in the community dedicated to education, none can eclipse Lorraine Balske's drive to support Fairmont's schools and students.
Balske, 88, died Saturday at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, leaving behind a legacy as a longtime employee of Fairmont Area Schools and a driving force behind the growth and success of the local Dollars for Scholars program.
Balske was born at the home of her parents, Ray and Julia Miller, in Fairmont Township on July 10, 1925. She attended rural school and was active in 4-H, winning national honors for her projects. She was valedictorian of her class, graduating from Fairmont High School in 1943.
Balske attended the University of Minnesota for one year, but was forced to curtail her studies because of a lack of funds and financial aid.
She returned to Fairmont and put her outstanding clerical skills to use as a secretary at Fairmont Railway Motors, where she worked for five years.
She married Dale Balske on Sept. 24, 1949, in Fairmont, and they moved to her parents' farm in 1950.
After their marriage, she began working as a secretary in the Fairmont schools, a position she held for more than 46 years.
In 1978, she was asked to join the board of Fairmont Dollars for Scholars and serve as its secretary. At the time, the chapter was awarding about 30 scholarships annually, totaling about $9,000, averaging about $300 per recipient.
Balske devoted an enormous amount of time and effort to the chapter, preparing meeting agendas, chapter minutes, press releases and letters to potential donors.
By the time she retired from her position in 2010, after 32 years, the chapter was rewarding almost 130 scholarships totaling more than $100,000, with the average award being about $1,000.
And Lorraine Balske's name had become synonymous with Dollars for Scholars. Her dedication and commitment to the program earned her the title of National Volunteer of the Year in 2010. She was recognized for this honor at the national Dollars for Scholars meeting in St. Paul, where the national organization established a $1,000 scholarship in her name, to be used for a Fairmont High School graduate.
Balske already had established a local scholarship in memory of her parents and husband, after his death in 1996.
Balske's dedication to students extended beyond Dollars for Scholars. She and her husband were strong supporters of extracurricular activities, often attending programs and athletic competitions at home and away.
"She had a love for the school," said Helen Gould, who worked with Balske in Partners in Education in support of the school. "She always did whatever she could."
Sherwood Sagedahl served as president of the local Dollars for Scholars chapter for 11 years and praised Balske's endeavors.
"I worked with Lorraine for many years, and she was totally committed. She deserves a lot of credit for the growth in the chapter," he said.
Balske also served on the Fairmont Community Education and Recreation board of directors, sharing her organizational expertise.
"She was always ready to help," said Roni Dauer, CER director. "She and her husband, Dale, were great supporters of the school, and she has left a legacy of educational opportunities that will continue to grow."
A memorial service for Balske will be held 4 p.m. Friday in the chapel at Lakeview Funeral Home of Fairmont, with visitation one hour prior to the service.
Memorials are preferred to Dollars for Scholars or Partners in Education.