Rae Ann Balster, age 77, passed away peacefully with family by her side on Friday, October 2, 2020. She eased into the next phase of life with the help of the Lord and the spirit of her loving husband, Les, after a struggle with coronavirus complications. She left the world as she lived in it, as a gracious, kind, and loving lady who made her own choices on how to live her life.
Born January 10, 1943, Rae Ann was the eldest daughter of Raymond and Mary Lou Swinderman. Her brother Jim, sister Karen and twin sisters Janet and Jean completed the family of seven. When she was a young child, the family moved to Guayama, Puerto Rico. Living as a minority in a new culture provided challenges and rewards. Rae Ann became fluent in Spanish, developed empathy for other people’s situations as well as a love for nature and a sense of adventure. From these experiences, she developed a uniquely sympathetic and open heart. After high school graduation, Rae Ann moved back to Dayton, Ohio where she earned a registered nursing degree from Good Samaritan Hospital.
During her nursing education she met Lester Balster, her future husband. Rae Ann and Les married on June 27, 1964 in Guayama, Puerto Rico. They lived in Dayton, Ohio for their first eight years where they had three children, a daughter Lisa, a son Mark and a daughter Tracie. In 1972, Rae Ann and Les moved the family to Appleton, Wisconsin where daughter Kellie was added to the family. Rae Ann was a loving mother who was very involved in her children’s lives. She volunteered at McKinley Elementary School, Madison Junior High, and Appleton East High School as a library helper, art ambassador, concession stand worker and much more.
Rae Ann was an entrepreneur and dedicated community volunteer. While her children were in school, Rae Ann purchased and ran a small cleaning service business where she employed several neighbors and teenage friends of her children. Throughout her business years and afterwards, Rae Ann focused on charitable volunteerism. She spent nearly 30 years working with the Leaven organization to help individuals turn hardship into hope. She assisted in many roles at Leaven including as a case worker and receptionist where her bilingual skills proved useful. Rae Ann took pride in her work and had a genuine compassion towards those in need of help. She had close connections to the other Leaven volunteers; many became dear friends. Rae Ann also volunteered at several other organizations and events over the years: Meals on Wheels, Saint Joe’s Food Pantry, St Bernadette’s Church, Pillars, High Cliff State Park, and at election polls.
Most important to Rae was her family. She loved spending time with her husband of 53 years, their children and their children's families. She remained extremely close to her birth family in Puerto Rico, and she was equally close to her husband’s family which she considered to be her own. Rae often showed her love and appreciation with her baking. She was quick to gift a batch of fresh baked cookies (the best ever!) or brownies. She enjoyed family trips to the north woods near Beecher Lake, visiting state parks, hiking, and listening to classical music. In her years as Grandma, she remained vibrant in her children and grandchildrens’ lives: working on barns, canning applesauce, going on hay wagon rides, boating on Lake Geneva, breakfasting on the beach at Lake Superior just to name a few. Additionally, she supported her nine grandchildren by attending their numerous sporting events, concerts, dance recitals and graduations. She kept close with her siblings and her in-laws through reunions, trips around the world, and other family events.
Rae Ann is preceded in death by her husband, Lester Balster, parents Mary Lou and Ray Swinderman, sister Janet Swinderman, brother-in-law Werner Balster, and sisters-in-law Rita Kinderman and Karen Balster. Rae Ann is survived by her children: Lisa Balster, Mark (Cheryl Miller) Balster, Tracie (Tom) Schirtzinger, and Kellie (Jonathan) Fay and by nine grandchildren; Justin, Andrew, Kyle and Jack Balster; Eric, Ian and Adam Schirtzinger; Josie and Trevor Fay. She is survived by two sisters Jean and Karen Swinderman and her brother and sister-in-law Jim and Zaida Swinderman. In addition, she is survived by in-laws Elsie Balster, Harold and Shirley Balster, Ralph and Lois Balster, Dennis and Bev Balster, Delbert and Beatsy Balster, Terry and Margie Boeckman, and Gene and Bernice Liening.
Funeral services are expected to be held in the late spring of 2021. There will be future notice regarding details of the memorial service with assistance provided by Valley Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, please consider making donations to Leaven at www.leavenfoxcities.org.
Rae Ann's family would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our friends and family for their love and support. Also included is our sincere and warm appreciation for their care of our wonderful mother in a time of need goes to the exceptional medical staff at ThedaCare Medical Center in Neenah. Their efforts brought genuine comfort to our close family.
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