A Final Tribute Honoring a Special Lady During Women’s History Month

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Lt. Balmer holds a plaque recognizing her as the oldest living female member of the American Legion at 108 years old. Photo courtesy of Brenda Sheriff

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Women’s History Month celebrates the vital role of women in American history.  The vibrancy and legacy of women past and present unifies and nourishes our collective whole as we march onward towards fundamental human equality.

Lieutenant Lynn Balmer, born September 12, 1907, on the family homestead in Plumas, California, saw history unfold before her eyes and created a bit of history herself. On her 108th birthday, she was recognized by American Legion Post 709, Rancho Cordova, California, as the oldest living female member of the American Legion.

However, now this special lady has been called to Post Everlasting.  Lynn Balmer died peacefully at her home at Country Village in Chico, California, on December 9, 2017, at the vintage age of 110.  

She was a lifetime member of American Legion Post 709, Rancho Cordova, California, where her nephew, Sgt. Ken Hicks, U.S. Air force veteran, was Historian. He is currently an active member of Post 709. 

She was also a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 637, Citrus Heights, California.

After WWII started, Lynn Balmer joined the military, “to free a man for active duty.”  She served in the U.S. Coast Guard and achieved the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade) LTJG.  Lt. Balmer secured a top secret clearance and worked in Military Intelligence. Using her keen mathematical abilities, she read and interpreted weather maps and charts and used Morse code to help ships navigate through dangerous waters and adverse weather conditions between the United States and England.

Prior to her military service, Lt. Balmer was an elementary school teacher, teaching her first class in 1927.  She later taught mathematics to high school students.  In 1943, her passion for teaching and love for her students, (having no children, she treated each and every child as her own) gave way to her patriotism and love of country when she enlisted in the U. S. Coast Guard.

Yes, Lt. Balmer entered two noble professions and gave of her immense talents whole heartedly.

Between the years of 1946 and 1967 she attended the University of Washington part time, taught mathematics to junior high school students, volunteered at a children’s orthopedic hospital, and was a professional skater to boot.  She retired and moved to Chico, California in the late 1990s with her husband, Charles.

Lynn Balmer’s passion for life lives on.  She told stories about living through World War 1, living through the nationwide flu epidemic in 1918 by wearing bags of asafetida around her neck to school, living through the Great Depression, and when there were shortages of grain and sugar, feeling very lucky that her father had bees so their family of nine children had honey.

Her nephew, Sgt. Hicks, and her extended family and friends continue to carry on Lt. Balmer’s storytelling to the delight of young and old alike.

The Women’s Suffrage movement was going strong in her childhood and when Lynn was 18 years old, she recalled that her mother got to vote for the first time in her life during the 1920 election.  When Lynn became of legal age, she, too, proudly exercised her right to vote and encouraged all women, young and old, to exercise their hard-earned right to vote.

Lt. Balmer died at 110 years old leaving a personal legacy of a life well lived.  She did not let life pass her by.  Her deep love of country and patriotism ignited her commitment to help protect our democracy and way of life. That love still flourishes in the lives she touched personally and by the sheer power of her being. 

She had richness of character, strength, gentleness, and a pioneer spirit exemplifying qualities of our American Legion veterans.

During Women’s History Month, it is only fitting we pay special tribute to Lt. Balmer and reflect upon and celebrate the lives of famous women pioneers and leaders in our history, as well as celebrate the unsung women heroes of our daily lives.    

ARTICLE written by:  Sheila LaPolla Historian, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 383, Fair Oaks, California and Historian, American Legion Riders Chapter 383, Fair Oaks, California

Membership #301190393

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