In Jan. 2 IssueBy Kim GrahamRCN Reporter
A member of what has been called the greatest generation, Rudolph “Randy” Ballenger leaves a legacy of tenacity, dedication and generosity.
Randy Ballenger, who died December 2, 2009, owned and operated Ballenger Refrigeration more than 60 years in Russell County.
He installed the first heat pump in Russell County in 1947 at Rippetoe’s Funeral Home.
“He did commercial and residential work,” said son Curtis Ballenger. “Coolers, freezers, and ice machines: he took care of about all of them.”
Before he became known as the “refrigeration man”, Randy Ballenger was a member of the 503rd Paratroopers serving in World War II and the Korean War.
Curtis remembers his dad making people laugh when he joked about jumping out of planes, “They took us up 5 times before I knew the plane could land.”
During his service in WWII, he circled the world defending freedom. Ballenger was recognized with many medals including one for being in combat for 90 days straight and two purple hearts.
He carried with him shrapnel and survivor’s remorse for living on after others had fallen.
Something that will stay with Curtis just before his father died he said, “You know I’ve always felt guilty all my life about all my comrades who didn’t survive. I’m fixing to lay that guilt down now.”
Throughout Randy Ballenger’s life, he always persevered, learned from his experiences and had a zeal for living that he passed on to generations that follow him.
Ballenger met his wife, Margaret Elizabeth Aaron, at military exposition in Lexington, NC on July 4th and married her on July 6th two years later.
“Mom always said he literally jumped into her arms,” said Curtis Ballenger.
Ballenger said his mother, who passed away in 2005, had a chance in her youth to be a model but chose to stay home with her husband raising her family.
“I had two wonderful parents,” said Curtis Ballenger. “I feel very honored to have had parents who really loved their children.”
The couple had 5 sons together who were raised to be respectful and appreciate hard work.
“He was a very strict parent,” said Ballenger. “If he said it once, that was it. You didn’t get a second chance.”
Ballenger said he always respected his father’s authority to the day he died.
“He let us learn our own lessons,” said Ballenger. “He told us we had to learn from our own mistakes.”
“He said the first time is a mistake,” Ballenger said. “The second time, you know better.”
Curtis Ballenger remembers long nights of working until 1 or 2 a.m. and falling asleep on a tarp inside his father’s work van.
Taught his sons about good work ethics and being contributing members of society.
“He’s the reason I’m in business today,” said Ballenger. “As soon as we were able to walk, he took [my brothers and me] to jobs with him.”
Randy Ballenger was from a generation of men who sacrificed themselves for others without complaining or a need for recognition.
Ballenger said his dad told them, “The world doesn’t owe you anything. If you want something, you have to work to get it.”
“Dad was not one to complain about life,” Ballenger said of his father. “He was always worrying about somebody else.”
Helping others was something that came naturally to Randy Ballenger.
An active member of Russell Springs Christian Church, Randy Ballenger took care of the church’s heating and cooling only charging for materials. His service was free of charge.
Ballenger’s family carries with them memories of him cutting up and carrying on with folks.
“He was a prankster and enjoyed getting a good one on somebody,” said Ballenger.
Ballenger said his dad would come into the office with greasy hands teasing the ladies he worked with about giving them a big hug.
His joy for being around people was shared by adding a personal touch to his business through caring for the people he served and even sharing his experience with the competition.
“He was very intelligent when it came to refrigeration and he was not one to give up on a problem,” said Curtis Ballenger. “He would not leave until the piece of equipment he came to repair was running. He was very patient.”
When Curtis Ballenger opened Curt’s Heating and Cooling, his father closed down his business to work for his son’s new company.
His fortitude never wavered. He continued throughout his life to face adversity with courage.
“[Dad] would get the boys out and say, ‘Let me show you what an old man can do.’,” said Ballenger. “He’d tell them it was too hot for them but he’d go into attics when the duct work was too hot to touch.”
In 2000, at the age of 80, Randy Ballenger jumped from the bungee jump at the Russell County fair on a dare from a friend.
Curtis said his dad talked about jumping out of a plane one more time up until he was 85 years old.
“If anyone had the memory of an elephant, he did” said Ballenger of his father. “It was amazing how much he remembered right up until the end of his life.”
Even after he was out of the refrigeration business he still remembered jobs he had done decades ago.
Curtis said he called his dad on a unit that he had installed. His dad remembered he had installed the heat pump 42 years prior, the model number and the tonnage of the unit. With this information, Curtis was able to get a compressor to repair the heat pump.
Ballenger’s memory lives on through the gift of his experience and his example.
“We need to remember people like Dad,” said Ballenger. “All the WWII vets are living history books. We should let all veterans know we really appreciate what they do for our country.”
Poppy was our patriarch,
And will always be remembered fondly in our hearts.
Looking back over the years,
Will definitely bring you to tears.
But Poppy wouldn’t want us to cry,
Because he didn’t really die.
He’s still looking over us with that watchful eye,
He’s still alive and present in all our hearts
And with these things, we will never part.
Excerpt from a poem by granddaughter, Sonja Ballenger Vitatoe.