GEORGE ALEXANDER BALDY, age 92, of Inver Grove Heights, died peacefully of natural causes Monday afternoon, October 5, 2010, at Golden Living Center-Lynnhurst in St. Paul. George was born 25 feet from the Great Northern Railway mainline February 25, 1918, in Donnelly, Stevens County, Minnesota, to Bartek Anton Baldy, an immigrant from Brinnitz, Poland, and Mathilda Elizabeth Baldy (née Gonsior). He subsequently spent his entire professional life with the railroad next to which he was born. Second-oldest in a farming and railroading family of eight children, George’s was a life of adventure, and duty.
His country childhood would have been the envy of Tom Sawyer, as his boyhood was spent outdoors as much as in-. Working hard and playing hard, George helped tame a Minnesota landscape that, well into the 20th century, was still very much a frontier. He was old enough, for instance, to remember ice being harvested from area lakes for use in early refrigerated boxcars. He was also young enough to have tasted war.
During World War II, necessity and serendipity combined to place him in odd, even eccentric situations. For instance, while other soldiers were scattered across remote points of the globe, George served his country by guarding all the (then-) many piers of Manhattan, New York City, as an enlistee in the U.S. Coast Guard. When he wasn’t watching for German U-boats, he was watching out for con artists wreaking havoc from within. The country boy thus became streetwise in Manhattan during one of its greatest decades. Ultimately, George came to know the island like the back of his hand, with much of his extensive knowledge gained at the helm of the Lightship Ambrose; for years now a prominent part of the South Street Seaport Museum. But one of his most memorable moments during this time – and one he never tired of recounting – was his assistance in the valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save the French liner S.S. Normandie – moored at Pier 88, New York City – on February 9-10, 1942. He spoke often of the details of the tragedy; of blood and sweat expended, ultimately, for naught.
Later, during the Korean War when, as the name suggests, many efforts were being made in southeast Asia, George served as Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Adirondack; a communications ship semi-permanently moored in bustling, post-war Naples, Italy. Thus while his navy counterparts in Korea were learning to like kimchi, George was enjoying Neapolitan pizza and ice cream; and was even granted an audience with Pope Pius XII. And so, very consistently, George was a witness to some of the great moments in 20th century history. Also very consistently, he viewed those moments from rare, unusual perspectives.
As the Korean War moved toward armistice, George took the radio engineering skills he previously learned at the Navy’s Capital Radio Engineering School (Silver Spring, Maryland) and honed them further at the University of Minnesota; where he earned his B.S.E.E.
At about this time also, he met his future wife, Bridget Jeanne (née Grimm); later marrying her on August 12, 1952, at Holy Rosary Cathedral, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. The young couple made their home in Minneapolis where, degree in hand, George ultimately returned to the railroad next to which he was born: the Great Northern.
At the Great Northern he rose from an initial posting as Assistant Communications Engineer and ultimately retired from the Great Northern’s successor railroad, the Burlington Northern Railroad, as Superintendant, Communications Engineering.
Along the way, in his off-hours, he loved gardening perhaps more than any other pastime. He almost constantly tended his beautiful garden in West St. Paul, which produced countless bushels of fine herbs and vegetables, and endless bouquets of lovely flowers; literally for decades.
He was active in the community, too, as a member of the Holy Name Society at the Church of St. Joseph, and was a 4th-Degree Knight and, ultimately, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Council No. 4184. He was also an active Volunteer Firefighter for the City of West St. Paul and, in that capacity, made the papers in 1974 when his death was erroneously reported. Regrettably, this current reporting is more accurate.
All of the above, he did for love of his family: His is a loyalty that will be remembered fondly, and not imitated easily even among the willing.
He was preceded in death by his parents, and by his brother Leo (Dolores, deceased) Baldy, Anthony (Jean) Baldy, and Lorraine (George, deceased) Plotnik; all of Delano, Minnesota.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jeanne, of Inver Grove Heights; by his daughter Anne Marie (Steven) Murphy, of Sunfish Lake, Minnesota; and by his son, John Charles (Adrienne) Baldy of Las Vegas, New Mexico.
He is survived also by his many grandchildren: Brendan, Tamara, Sean, Michaela, Conor and Keara Murphy, of Sunfish Lake; and by August and Carl Baldy of Las Vegas, New Mexico.
He is survived also by his sister, Regina (Joseph, deceased), of Richfield, Minnesota; by his sister, Gertrude (James, deceased) Fish, of Crosby, Minnesota; by his sister, Delores (William) Griffin, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and by his sister, Lavern (Donald) Ross, of Lonsdale, Minnesota.
Visitation occurred at 10:00 A.M. Tuesday, October 12, 2010, at the Church of St. Joseph, 1154 Seminole Avenue (at Butler Avenue) in West St. Paul, Minnesota. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated one hour later, or 11:00 A.M. at the Church. Interment followed at 2:30 P.M., at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Delano, Minnesota.
Memorials are requested to be made to the Church of St. Joseph, West St. Paul, Minnesota.
Arrangements made by West Funeral Home, 1051 South Robert Street, West St. Paul, Minnesota; phone 651-457-6200.
“There is a time when you have to sacrifice everything to have everything saved." – Tadeusz Kościuszko.
Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 11:00 A.M. at the Church of St. Joseph, West St. Paul, Minnesota. Interment followed at 2:30 P.M., at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Delano, Wright County, Minnesota.