Rodney W Balke

February 24, 1931November 19, 2021
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Biographic Data on Rodney Balke By Rod Balke

Rodney Worth Balke was born on February 24th, 1931 in Santa Anna, Texas, the son of Raymond Balke and Lucille Lowe Balke. As a young boy, Rodney served as a band mascot to the Santa Anna High School and dressed as a bunny rabbit for other school activities. He attended schools in Santa Anna, Ballinger, Dublin, and Big Lake, graduating from Ballinger High School in 1948. He played football at Big Lake and Ballinger and was an avid Texas Tech and Cowboy football fan. He loved to fish and hunt and he worked on his uncle Clifford’s farm during summer breaks from school. He attended Texas Technological University in Lubbock, Texas, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and graduating in 1952. He worked odd jobs at Tech to supplement the support from his parents and his Aunt Inez and Uncle Clifford. He worked as a dining hall waiter, switchboard operator, laundry concession, dorm counselor and cashier during registration. Between semesters he collected coat hangers and sold them to the cleaners. He served his Senior year as a member of the Student Council. Upon graduation, he received 12 industry job offers, including GE, Westinghouse, several major oil companies, a number of aerospace companies, and Bell Helicopter in Ft. Worth, Texas. Three days after graduating, he was employed by Bell in the Mechanical Test Laboratory.

Rod became interested in flying and after a single paid flight, he and a friend bought a Piper Cub. He received his Private Pilot’s license and proceeded to conduct cross-country trips. On one trip from Irving, Texas to Lubbock, Texas, he had engine trouble requiring a forced landing. He found a cotton patch and when he touched down, the wheels locked up in the mud and the plane nosed over. Luckily, he only had a bump on the temple from a flying can of oil. He continued flying until he went into the Air Force. In 1955, while still employed at Bell and not wanting to be drafted into the Army, he volunteered thru the Air National Guard for pilot training in the U.S. Air Force. There he trained in Piper Cubs and AT-6s at Stallings Training Base in Kinston, North Carolina and in T-28 and T-33 aircraft at Williams AFB in Chandler, Arizona. His flight training was perhaps typical, but did include six near-accidents which are described in a book he wrote, “Remembering Class 56I”. He ran into some difficulty mastering instrument flying which resulted in his being washed out. Having received an Honorable Discharge, he then took and passed the written test for commercial airline pilots, but in the end decided to return to Bell Helicopter where he had taken a military leave-of-absence. At Bell, he again picked up his work in the Mechanical Test Laboratory and later moved to Structural Dynamics where he developed and patented six devices to control the vibrations in helicopters. When at Bell, he joined the American Helicopter Society and presented a number of technical papers at national meetings. He then transferred to Contracted Research where he managed Bell’s technical proposals and the contracts won. He retired from Bell in 1996 after 44 years of service. He then worked for Bell as a consultant until 2008.

In 1957, he married Billie Nunn whom he met and dated in school at Big Lake. They bought a home in North Dallas and had three children: Lori Elizabeth (who later changed her name to Misty Suzan), Larry Layne, and Lanci Lowe. Rod grew up attending services in the Presbyterian Church. In Dallas, he and his family attended the John Calvin Presbyterian Church where Rod served first as a Deacon and then as an Elder. He sang in the church choir and loved to listen to records and sing to the children in the evenings. He and Billie were married for 27 years.

Rod enjoyed music of many genres as evidenced by a large collection of vinyls, floppy discs, and later CDs. It is his hope that each of you will sing along with the music, knowing that he is singing with you to celebrate his life.

Rod fell in love with Janet Shepherd, a co-worker at Bell Helicopter. In 1987, after a two-year romance, they were married in the Church of Christ in North Richland Hills on the open stair landing, and had harp music to accompany the service and subsequent activity. They built a home in Colleyville and have enjoyed over 34 years of married bliss. Janet’s daughter, Bonnie, lived with them until she finished high school and started working. Rod and Janet also loved playing tennis, but they never kept score. Over the years, Rod and Janet took several wonderful trips. They cruised in the Caribbean three times; cruised and toured Alaska, went to Jamaica, took a tour of Europe, and cruised down the Mississippi. Rod has always been extremely proud of Janet and all of her talents and has deeply appreciated all her tender loving care.

Rod and Janet loved animals and usually had a cat or two and after a while, a dog. Their first dog was a Doberman Pinscher named Zipper. Janet trained Zipper until he died of cardio. They then got another Doberman named Bree. Bree showed in Conformation and received a Championship title. She then went on to being in the Top Twenty Obedience in the Doberman Pinscher Club of America four times. She also achieved a Master Agility Championship. Rod was a constant support to Janet and Bree at the trials, as he was extremely proud of both Janet and Bree. Bree became limited on her abilities so they got a new puppy, Skye, for Janet to train.

Janet’s brother, Lee, was a world champion drag racer, winning the NHRA championship four years in a row and concurrently won the IHRA world championship the last two years. In 1984, he was killed when testing a new race car. Rod and Janet received volumes of material on Lee’s racing which Rod used to prepare a large manuscript of Lee’s career, yet unpublished.

Left to cherish his memories are his loving wife of over 34 years, Janet, daughter Misty Haji-Sheikh (Michael), son Layne (Georgina), daughter Lanci, and step-daughter Bonnie Belt, six grandchildren, and two sisters: Bonnie Kuykendall of San Antonio and Linda Davidson (Bob) of Compton, Arkansas. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Patriot Paws or Doberman Rescue of North Texas.

A viewing will be held on Tuesday, November 23rd between 6:00 and 8:00 pm. Celebration of Life will be held on Wednesday, November 24th at 1:00 pm at: Shannon’s Funeral Chapel 6001 Rufe Snow Drive Fort Worth, TX 76148


  • In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Patriot Paws or Doberman Rescue of North Texas.


  • Visitation

    Tuesday, November 23, 2021

  • A Celebration of Life Service

    Wednesday, November 24, 2021

  • Burial to Follow Service

    Wednesday, November 24, 2021

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