Larry F. Balestra
Larry Balestra passed peacefully in his sleep on Jan. 7, 2022, in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he and his wife, Martha, spent their retirement years. Larry would have turned 101 this May.
Larry was born in Camden, New Jersey, on May 25, 1921, to Nunzio (Lancy) and Adeline (Lena) Balestra. He was the oldest of three children followed by his brother Felice and sister Rose.
Larry attended grade school and high school in Camden, graduating with honors, and continued to La Salle University for pre-dental and later Temple Dental School. He always enjoyed science, musicals, opera and the arts in general.
The year was 1945 and WWII was in full force. Larry joined the ROTC at Temple to help pay his tuition and was commissioned as first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Dental Corps after graduation in 1945. He was sent to Madigan Hospital, Ft. Lewis, Washington, for officers training. It was there that he first set eyes on Martha O’Donnell, an RN in the Army nursing corps. It was a short courtship as Larry received his orders to ship out to Neubiberg Air Force Base in Germany in two short weeks. Martha called her family in Billings to arrange the whirlwind wedding and the couple married in Billings in April 1946. A short weekend honeymoon took place in the beautiful mountains of Montana known as the “Boulder.” After six months, Martha joined Larry in Germany in 1946. The war was winding down, but Larry remained on staff at the Air Force base, providing dental care while the couple traveled through Europe on an extended two-year honeymoon. With Martha’s pregnancy in 1948, the couple returned to Billings to begin their new life. Larry opened his dental practice and Martha would stay home to raise her three children: Jim, Sheri and Barbara.
Larry fell in love with the West, the people, the easygoing lifestyle and, of course, the mountains. He built a family log cabin by himself in the Red Lodge Mountains and gave many tours of Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks for friends and family.
Larry made sure his children were exposed to the arts and his opera music could be heard throughout the house on weekends. Family trips to Denver, Minneapolis and New York would further expose the family to musicals, art galleries and diversity not found in Billings. His outgoing and welcoming personality served him well in life. Friends of his children, neighbors, patients and eventually grandchildren would benefit from his stories and life lessons. He was a fine example of a great Christian man.
Martha and Larry were married for 74 years. In 1993, they left the snow of Montana for the beautiful seashore of Daytona Beach to spend retirement with family and new friends. Martha passed on Oct. 31, 2020. Larry leaves behind his three children, Jim (Niki), granddaughter Jennifer; Sheri (Michael); and Barbara, grandchildren Matthew (Mary) and daughter Ashley (Ryan) and great-grandchildren Wyatt, Sydney, Patrick, Hannah and Declan.
A Celebration of Life Catholic Mass will be held at St. Patrick’s church followed by interment later this summer.