Sophia Elizabeth (Koury) Balagia
April 14, 1924 – May 12, 2019
Sophia Elizabeth Koury Balagia was born in Frackville, Pennsylvania on April 14, 1924, and died on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019. Sophia was the oldest child of Agnes Zammer and Nicholas Carl Koury, and had three siblings, Linda Koury Hajjar, Carl Koury and Dan Koury. In 1933, her parents moved the family to Quincy, Massachusetts, where her father found work during the Great Depression as a riveter in the Boston shipyards, and where Sophia attended Fisher College. Her first job was as the assistant to G. Prescott Low, the publisher and owner of the Quincy Patriot Ledger daily newspaper.
In 1950, Sophia was introduced to Jack Balagia of Austin, Texas by one of Jack’s World War II Army Air Force colleagues, Thurman Sallade. After a brief long-distance courtship, they married in February, 1951 and she courageously moved to Austin, at that time thousands of miles, geographically and culturally, from her friends and family. Although Sophia never shed her New England roots, nor her devotion to her parents and siblings, she embraced her adopted Austin soon after her arrival.
Sophia and Jack raised four children in their home on Waller Creek across from Robert E. Lee Elementary School. She actively participated in her children’s education, often staying up late to type term papers and book reports, and always encouraging their achievement. She participated in their extracurricular activities as a den mother in the Cub Scouts and the Campfire Girls, and on the Board of the Austin Council of Parent Teacher Associations. Because all of her children attended the University of Texas, her and Jack’s home often served as the venue for get-togethers of classmates and friends, many of whom have continued to keep in touch with her over the years.
Sophia also set an example in fulfilling civic responsibility, serving on the Board of Trustees of the Austin Public Library and helping to establish the city’s new library building on Guadalupe Street. She was a founding member of the KLRU fundraising auction, served on the St. Michael’s Development Board and on the Board of the Austin Mental Health Association. She was active in St. Austin’s Church, Caritas and co-wrote a catechism for her fifth grade CCD class with her friend and colleague Jan Hearne. She was active in a number of local, state and national political campaigns, especially on behalf of her friend Congressman Jake Pickle and President Lyndon Johnson. She had an insatiable appetite for reading and learning and after her children had grown, she went back to school at UT for a number of years. She and Jack were founding members of the UT Club and members of the Longhorn Foundation, the UT Chancellors Council, the Friends of the LBJ Library and the Headliners Club.
After Jack died in 2008 at age 93, Sophia’s active life continued to be focused on her home and family, her reading and audio books, opera, Turner Classic Movies, cooking for her family, and bridge games with her friends. She was extremely proud of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She always looked forward to their visits. She insisted on living at home independently, with her daughter Suzy and son Jimmy always nearby to help out.
She is survived by her children, son Jack, Jr. and his wife Mary, son Jimmy and his wife Linda, son Terry, her best friend and devoted daughter Suzy, as well as twelve grandchildren and four great grandchildren, her “adopted” daughter Laurie Brown and her Watson grandchildren, and many nephews and nieces. She is preceded in death by her parents, her siblings, her husband and her infant daughter Linda Dorice. She leaves behind a legacy of family, friendship, faith, education and civic duty. The family is grateful to Dr. David Joseph for his devotion to Sophia as her and Jack’s personal physician for many years.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 16, at St. Austin’s Catholic Church in Austin, with parking at 500 West Martin Luther King Blvd., a reception will follow at the Headliners Club. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the S. Jack and Sophia K. Balagia Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law at the UT School of Law, 727 E. Dean Keeton Ave., Austin, Texas 78705, to the LBJ Library Foundation at www.lbjlibrary.org/foundation/support/ or to a charity of your choice.
S. Jack and Sophia K. Balagia Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law at the UT School of Law
727 E. Dean Keeton Ave., Austin, Texas 78705
- LBJ Library Foundation
- Memorial Service Thursday, May 16, 2019