Mark Ballas' grandfather, George Charles Ballas, Sr., passed away on June 25, 2011. To honor Mr. Ballas, we thought it would be nice to learn a little about him. Our sympathies go out to the Ballas family. May you find peace and comfort in this difficult time.
George C. Ballas, Sr. was born on June 28, 1925 in Ruston, La. and is of Greek decent. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at the age of 17. He was a bombardier during WWII and an Air Force OSI agent during the Korean War.
George Ballas married Maria Luisa Marulanda (of Spanish decent) in Laredo, Texas on August 30, 1952. George and Maria had five children: Michelle (1953), George "Buck", Jr. (1954), Maria "Winkie" (1956), Mark "Corky", Sr. (1960), and Lillian (1964). His wife, Maria, is a well-known Flamenco dancer who has appeared in many movies and studied with Carmen Amaya in Spain.
George is probably most widely known as the inventor of the Weed Eater. The story goes that George was sitting in his Cadillac in an automated car wash, watching the brushes clean the car without damaging the surface, when the idea hit him. George had a large lawn, with many trees, and had never found a satisfactory way to trim the edges. His first prototype of the Weed Eater was built out of a popcorn tin, fishing line, and radio wire. George's invention eventually became a company, Weed Eater, Inc, which was founded in 1971 and quickly rose in popularity. Check out this photo of the original Weed Eater logo:
George is also well known for his ties to dance. He owned and operated the world's largest dance studio, "Dance City USA", which employed 125 teachers in a 64,000 sq. ft. studio. George also taught dance and founded many of the dance syllabi that are still used today. From 1960 until 1964, Mr. Ballas served as President of Fred Astair Dance Studios.
George Ballas, Sr. was quite the entrepreneur. He founded over 100 other companies in his lifetime, was lead developer for the Westchase Hilton Hotel in Houston, TX (built in 1980), and taught entrepreneurship at Rice University. Ballas authored at least two books: The Making of an Entrepreneur: Keys to Your Success was co-written with David Hollas and published by Prentice-Hall in 1980 (ISBN: 0135467705, 9780135467701) and The Love Formulas: Understanding, Evaluating and Managing Romantic Love-Intelligently was published by Mega Publishing in 1993 (ISBN: 0963467719, 9780963467713).
George C. Ballas, Sr. died on June 25, 2011 at the age of 85. May he rest in peace.
"Thank you for all ur kind tweets, My Grand Pa is with the Angels now. Heaven is a better place now he is there.. RIP Grand Pa George..." ~ Mark Ballas, June 25, 2011.
"He was the best grandpa in the world," Mark Ballas said. "Patient, understanding, wise, caring and loving - a wonderful man we're all gonna miss." ~ Houston Chronicle, June 29, 2011
Finally, here is a little interview that Corky did with Greek Reporter, in which he talks about his father. :)
George C. Ballas Sr bio: http://www.corky.com/gballas.htm
Detailed History of the Weed Eater told by Don Woods:
History of the Weed Eater by Evan Schmidt 10/30/2009
Wiki for Weed Eater: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weed_Eater
Weed Eater website: http://www.weedeater.com/
Birthdates from http://www.familytreelegends.com/records/txbirths
Ages from http://www.veromi.com/ (*Lillian was wrong)
Obituary of Maria Luisa Marulanda, Aunt of Mark's grandmother, Maria:
George and Maria Golden Wedding Anniversary news article:
(Laredo Morning Times, Sun. Sept. 8, 2002)
Corky Ballas Bio: http://www.corky.com/bio.html
Houston Chronicle article from June 29, 2011: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/deaths/7631466.html
Compiled and written by Renée of Bewitching Ballas. June 26, 2011.