|Birth: ||Aug. 12, 1925|
|Death: ||Sep. 24, 2010|
George "Elfie" Ballis, who walked with the late United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez, led a rebellion against farmers over water and documented peace movements in Fresno, died early Friday. He was 85.
Mr. Ballis, a Marine veteran, had been ill for a long time and died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fresno.
Obituary courtesy of Jerry Huffman 46859530
The Fresno Bee, The (CA) - September 26, 2010
Ballis passes 'with grace, good humor' His photos documented a host of Valley struggles.
Deceased Name: Ballis passes 'with grace, good humor' His photos documented a host of Valley struggles.
Photographer George "Elfie" Ballis, who walked with the late United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez, led a rebellion against farmers over water and documented peace movements in Fresno, died early Friday. He was 85.
Mr. Ballis, a Marine veteran, had been ill for a long time and died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fresno. His ailments included prostate cancer, friends said.
With his health in decline, he held an "End Game Party" at his Tollhouse home in November 2009. He and his wife, Maia, sang songs and shared stories about his life with hundreds of friends.
Maia Ballis could not be reached to comment Saturday. In an e-mail to friends Friday, she said Mr. Ballis told his doctor "he felt himself flying over the Earth, then felt himself become one with the Earth ... and the rocks."
"He left us with grace and good humor, appreciative of all the assistance offered him," the e-mail said. "He never cared for the concept of ashes to ashes, and preferred flower to flower."
Maia Ballis said she donated his body to LifeLegacy, a nonprofit medical research and education foundation in Tucson, Ariz.
Ballis leaves behind a legacy of social activism and artistic sensitivity, others who knew him said Saturday.
"He was really a unique guy," Mike Rhodes, editor of the local Community Alliance Newspaper, said Saturday. "He loved life and took pride in his work."
As a photographer, Mr. Ballis "could move like the wind and blend into the scenery."
His secret: whether his subjects were farmworkers or Native Americans, he would first get to know them before snapping pictures. Once he gained their trust, he was able to make photographs of people just being themselves, Rhodes said.
Mr. Ballis began covering the farm labor movement in the 1960s. One of his most memorable photographs shows Chavez in March 1966 leading farmworkers on a pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento.
Learning of Mr. Ballis' death, UFW president Arturo Rodriguez and Paul Chavez, president of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and son of Cesar Chavez, issued a joint statement: "No one [else] has consistently demonstrated George's love and commitment to La Causa over so many decades."
Born in Minnesota, Mr. Ballis helped his parents run a dry-cleaning business and was a high school football standout in his hometown of Faribault.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and repaired radar equipment in Chicago and torpedo bombers in the South Pacific.
In a 2005 interview, Mr. Ballis said the experience made him a man, and gave him his first look at the world outside Minnesota -- an experience that would change his life forever.
After the war, Mr. Ballis enrolled at the University of Minnesota, planning to become an electrical engineer. Instead, he joined a radical campus organization called the Student World Federalists.
In 1947, Mr. Ballis wrote a paper opposing the war in Indochina that pitted the French against the native Vietnamese. Years later, he watched in dismay as the United States got involved, and the Vietnam War escalated under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Mr. Ballis came to Fresno in 1953. He was editor of the Valley Labor Citizen until 1966 and led National Land for People's so-called "water war" against west-side farmers from the mid-1970s to early 1980s.
He got his nickname years ago after a Berkeley radio host said he handled questions "with grace and lightness -- like an elf."
In recent years, he followed protesters with his video camera, covering issues ranging from the treatment of animals to the war in Iraq.
"I Am Joaquin," a 16-minute film Mr. Ballis made in 1969, won several awards and was used in Chicano studies at universities. Some footage he shot during a Peace Fresno protest was included in Michael Moore's 2004 controversial hit movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Created by: Pennsylvania Lady
Record added: May 15, 2011
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