|Birth: ||Feb. 22, 1943|
|Death: ||Aug. 25, 1993|
Richard Frederick Ballagh Memorial
Feb. 22, 1943 – August 25, 1993
Hearts at Peace Cemetery
Richard was born in Baldwinsville, New York on February 22, 1943 the second son of William and Jane Ballagh. He moved to Watertown, New York when he was less than a month old and later to a 315 acre farm three miles from Copenhagen, New York in the Spring of 1944 at the age of one. He was always focused, principled, determined, kind, helpful, caring, witty and thrifty yet very generous. He possessed a strong work ethic and a streak of independence at an early age. He never doubted himself or his abilities and dared to take a chance which led to his many lifelong accomplishments. He was a master at working with his hands and always wanted to build or repair something. He had an intuitive understanding of mechanics and was always looking for a new project. These qualities set him apart from his contemporaries, but he always reached out to include those around him. The following comments are a few selected examples of his humanity throughout the short 50 years of his life.
Dick – The Early Years
He was known throughout his youth as Dick but his family sometimes called him "Dickie" especially when he was a young child.
Sense of Humor
When Dickie was little, he could be counted on to keep things stirred up. One time – perhaps he was three or four – the family went to Carthage (a village about five miles from the farm) to go Christmas shopping. As adventurous boys are apt to do, Dickie disappeared into the crowd. Frantic parents searched the 5-and-10 Cent Store with no luck. They went up and down the street looking in every store with the same question and received the same answer: "Have you seen a little boy in a red snowsuit?" – "Yes, he was here, made a mess and left ___ minutes ago." Finally, the frantic parents went to ask the policeman on the corner the same question who produced the child in question – held out by the scruff of his neck – and asked the parents to take him home and keep an eye on him. Embarrassed but relieved, his parents did just that.
Grandma and Grandpa Ballagh lived in Copenhagen and were having a family dinner. Dickie's Mom had baked a loaf of home-made bread for the party and it was still steaming hot from the oven. She loaded the five kids and the loaf of hot bread into the back of the new 1950 Chevrolet Suburban and dashed off to the dinner. When they arrived, Dickie carried the bread into Grandma's house and said, "I only sat on it onest, Grandma." Needless to say, the bread was flatter than a pancake.
His older brother, Don went off to Cornell University in September, 1959 to study agriculture. When he came home for his first Christmas, he brought each of the kids a Christmas present that he had purchased from the Cornell Campus Store. When Amy Kay opened her gift, she was somewhat perplexed as she unwrapped a long knitted red and white scarf-like garment. Don saw that she was confused and told her that it was a "muffler" as he was coming over to show her how to wear this accessory. Dickie, always the quick dry wit and top-notch mechanic, looked up from opening his gifts and said "Harrumph, it'll never work!!"
Dick was a puzzle to the family when he was little. He was definitely smarter than his siblings and was not lazy, but he could not seem to learn in school. His Mom would untiringly practice his spelling and his math tables with him and he managed to make it through elementary school after having to repeat 3rd and 6th grades. He finally had a young, first-year teacher, Miss Boyle who just recently graduated from college for his second year of sixth grade. She believed in him and provided him with encouragement and support. From then on, he did reasonably well and graduated in 1962.
Dick and his younger siblings, Tom and Amy served on the School Yearbook Staff together in 1961-62 and would work after school. His Mom would give each one $5 for going to Watertown for the movies and pizza after working on the yearbook. Tom and Amy would be broke after a couple of trips to Watertown, but Dick would reach down into his wallet and give them some of his money. He managed his money better than the other kids and would gladly bail them out.
The Social Studies teacher, Miss Hogan gave his Senior class a required assignment of a long term paper. Dick chose his topic to be the function of the USDA Agricultural Stabilization & Conservation Service. He thoroughly researched the topic and wrote the paper. He then asked a neighbor (Fuller Colvin) who worked in a local paper mill to bring him a roll of paper 8½" wide that would be suitable for typing. He mounted the paper roll to his Dad's antique manual upright Remington typewriter. He then proceeded to type the paper in scroll-format and tied it with a red ribbon when it was completed. Miss Hogan, not known for her humor, just belly-laughed when she received his term paper on its due date. He received an "A" for his efforts with positive remarks based on both the content of the term paper as well as his ingenuity of submitting it as a scroll.
Dick took an Ag Mechanics course which required a student project. While the other students were choosing to demonstrate how to tune a carburetor or some other small project, he explained to the teacher that he wanted to repaint and re-decal the 1950 Oliver 88 tractor to bring it back into show-room condition. The teacher (Mr. McNamera) initially attempted to dissuade him from such a large and involved project, but finally agreed to his request. Dick very successfully completed the project ahead of schedule doing all the work in the school shop.
He became a life-long learner and never forgot anything he learned. Perhaps because many of his early teachers did not deal kindly with him, he would go out of his way to help anyone who needed an extra hand.
The Mechanic and Inventor
There was never a challenge or project too large for Dick to tackle. He was one to venture out on his own and create opportunities for himself. He was always looking for a better way to do things. His talent in mechanics and building things continued to develop over his lifetime.
Money was quite limited on the farm in those early years and the kids did not have many toys. Dick was always inventing toys to amuse himself and to occupy his time. One of his early favorite gadgets were home-made "runnin' wheels" that he would make out of an old broom handle or wood stringer with an old baby buggy wheel or wagon wheel attached to the end. He later progressed to push carts with front wheels that steered by pulling on ropes attached to the board holding the wheels. Push carts later became motorized by a 3 HP Briggs & Stratton engine that his parents bought for him. He then advanced to building and flying free-flight scale model airplanes powered by small engines.
Dick never let the size of the project deter him from tackling what needed to be done. In the Winter of 1961, he completely rebuilt the Fox chopper and blower used for harvesting the hay. These units would not have made it thorough the next year. He volunteered to rebuild the chopper and blower so his Dad would not have to purchase new ones before the next haying season.
His Dad bought him and Tom a lot on Pleasant Lake for a camp. He gave Dick the choice of new lumber for the structure or used lumber and a carpenter to help build the camp. Dick chose the new lumber and he was the primary one who built the camp. The camp is still in use nearly 50 years after the original construction.
He modified the '54 Chevy pickup truck with oversize mud lug tractor tires off an old manure spreader by refitting the rims and welding them together. The larger tires allowed the pickup to go up the steep lake bank road anytime.
His parents built a new house in Lowville. They hired a contractor to build the structure. Dick volunteered to put in the plumbing and furnace in the new home before he entered the Army in 1964.
When others were buying snowmobiles since there was ample snow in Northern New York, he set out to build a snowmobile. He modified a '63 Chevy Corvair Spyder by cutting off part of the body, replacing the front tires with skis and made a half-track unit for the rear. He used tractor tires to fashion tracks by cutting out the sidewalls and using the tire treads as tracks to go over the rear wheels and a set of idler wheels. The invention had a few operational deficiencies and did not live up to his expectations so he was ready to move on to his next project.
Dick then took over his youngest brother's, Gerry, lawn mowing and leaf raking job. He did not like using the rake for the leaves so he set out to invent a machine to pick up the leaves. He put a trailer behind the 12 HP John Deere lawn tractor, mounted a gasoline engine on the trailer with a fan that would suck up the leaves and blow them into the trailer. He painted the trailer and blower John Deere green to match the tractor – true to his motto: "Never leave a job half-done!"
Richard – The Adult Years
He came home from the Army in 1967 known as Richard. It was apparent at an early age that he thought of himself as Richard. When he was about three years old, his parents gave him a cat and asked him what he would like to name it. He quickly responded "Frichard Frederick, juss like me!" and the cat was named Richard Frederick.
Venturing Out of Northern New York
After High School graduation, he worked at Watertown Air Brake Company. He would put his weekly paychecks on the dresser in his bedroom and not cash them for weeks at a time. In the Army, he made "payday loans" to other GI's in Germany and used some of the profits from these loans to buy a car and travel throughout Europe. He sent many gifts back to the family in the States including expensive coo-coo clocks and Hummel figurines that he purchased in the "Old Country."
He wanted to buy a new 4-wheel drive pickup truck and a motorcycle after he got out of the Army for his intended travels across the country. He got two jobs in 1967 at an hourly rate of $1.65 – 40 hours at the Kraft Cheese factory and 50 hours at the Paine Jones Paper Factory. Working 90 hours a week and with his previous savings from three years in the Army and the Air Brake factory, he was able to pay for the truck and motorcycle without having to take out loans.
Richard was "Bronson" before the "Then Came Bronson" series appeared on TV for its only season in 1969 – 1970. The main character in the series – Bronson – traveled around the USA on his motorcycle stopping to help people and taking on odd jobs. That was Richard in the Summer of 1969 when he left home on his motorcycle to travel to California to see an old Army buddy. He worked his way across the USA to finance his trip. He befriended many along the way with his willingness to assist them in many different ways primarily through his mechanical abilities and the desire to work for short periods of time. He even stopped briefly to visit Tom's wife in Centralia, Illinois while Tom was in Military Boot Camp. He hooked up with his buddy in California, bought an old car, stayed the winter and worked to support himself. He returned to New York on his motorcycle via Florida and later ventured out to Alaska in hopes of getting a job on the construction of the Alaskan Oil Pipeline.
Life in Alaska
Soon after his arrival in Alaska, he learned that newcomers to the "The Last Frontier" were shunned as outsiders for years. He took menial jobs that included working at a carwash that first winter and later bought a lot on which to build a house on the outskirts of Anchorage. There he built a small cabin to live in and dug an artesian well by hand in the dead of winter. He later built his dream house on this site. Richard received acceptance from the locals in a matter of months – not a years! He found permanent employment in the local utility company as an installer of gas lines to customers.
Note: Husband of Marilyn Crane Ballagh. Father of JoAnne Ballagh. Born in New York state. Lived in Alaska. US Army
Hearts At Peace Cemetery
Created by: Catherine Byron
Record added: Sep 01, 2002
Find A Grave Memorial# 6739540
Added by: Anonymous
Added by: Anonymous