|Birth: ||Aug. 17, 1937|
|Death: ||Mar. 15, 2011|
MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM)- An Army veteran who lived his last years in Muskegon was given a full military funeral Friday by strangers. No one attending the service knew 73-year old Andris Baltaisvilks. He died two-weeks ago from a terminal illness.
The little information those who arranged his funeral were able to confirm was he immigrated to this country from Latvia, graduated from Western Michigan University, and served in the U.S. Army starting in 1961.
In 1949, his family immigrated from Latvia, a country on the Baltic Sea occupied by the Soviets during World War II. Andris Baltaisvilks and his folks landed in Kalamazoo. No one knows why, what his parents' names were or their occupations. Andris Baltaisvilks graduated from Kalamazoo High School in 1957, seemingly as anonymous then as he was in death. He is one of the few seniors without a graduation picture in the yearbook.
But that's about all anyone, except Elloutt, knows. Only she can give a snapshot of the man she calls "Mr. B," finding his name almost unpronounceable.
"Mr. B" stood 5-feet, 4-inches tall, or thereabouts. He had a medium frame, gray hair, a quick wit.
"He had a pleasant face," Elloutt (Health Service worker) said, "and caring eyes."
He didn't care for the drivel "you and I might watch" on television, the reality shows and sitcoms. Baltaisvilks preferred documentaries.
"He was very intelligent, highly intelligent," Elloutt said.
And he wasn't much for what he called a lot of "hoopla."
"He would have appreciated this service," Elloutt said. "It was very short and to the point."
He is said to have gone to Western Michigan University and graduated before serving the Army. He became a U.S. citizen in Kalamazoo County in 1957-58. According to his files at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, he held a series of clerical jobs after he got out of the army, including a job with the State of Michigan.
According to Ever Rest Funeral Home Director David Cummings Baltaisvilks lived alone in a Muskegon apartment complex for the last 10 to 15 years. He gave away his possessions when he knew he was sick, and did not have any close friends or family to plan his funeral.
Cummings says a Hospice nurse deserves credit for notifying the correct authorities of Baltaisvilks's final wishes, a military funeral and to be buried at Fort Custer. She got the ball rolling, and the staff at Ever Rest Funeral Home did the rest. Contacting the appropriate government agencies for a funeral that included taps, honor guard, and 21-gun salute.
Friday afternoon Baltaisvilks was taken by hearse to Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta for burial. Members of the Patriot guard riding motorcycles escorted the hearse to the cemetery.
"When our country called, Andris answered," said Thomas "Skip" Vermilya, 84, a World War II veteran and commander of the Muskegon County Council VFW Honor Guard. "He left his home to defend his country."
When the funeral ended, the hearse carrying Baltaisvilks' body was escorted by members of the Michigan Patriot Guard Riders, many of whom are veterans themselves. Usually members of the Patriot Guard stand vigil outside funerals, but on Friday morning, 15 came inside to attend the service, sharing space with the Muskegon County Council VFW Honor Guard. There were veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and also times of peace, all there to honor a man they had never met.
"He stood for us," said Tom Plaska, 50, of Grand Rapids, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1978-86 and was ride captain for the day. "Now we can stand for him."
It was a sentiment echoed by others there, men and women who didn't need a eulogy or even a photograph to understand the solemnity of the day.
They were summoned to Baltaisvilks' funeral out of a sense of compassion, responsibility and camaraderie.
"I came to pay my respects," said Jon Osborn, 61, of Muskegon, who served 12 years in the Air Force, including two in Vietnam.
There was no one there for returned Vietnam veterans, he said.
"This gentleman had nobody," Osborn said.
A member of the Patriot Guard, Osborn stood in his black leather vest and blue jeans, gripping an oversized American flag in his hands waving in the day's wind.
"We're his family now," he said. "Forever."
Augustus A Baltaisvilks (1900 - 1966)
Olga Pauline Baltaisvilks (____ - 1998)
Fort Custer National Cemetery
Created by: Not Forgotten
Record added: Apr 01, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 67765006
Neil B (John 3:16)
Added: Jan. 17, 2015
I think of you often & your service to our country. Thank you for your service. Rest peacefully.|
Kathy Londo Barnes
Added: Oct. 18, 2012
Father is Augusts A Baltaisvilks, in Riverside Cemetery, Kalamazoo, #94316286.Mother is Olga Pauline Kruze Baltaisvilks, also in Riverside, #25799423.|
Added: Jul. 27, 2012
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