We are marking the moment: Dr Wally Balcerzak passed away August 15th, 2023 at 11:40pm at Hospice in Shoreview MN.
Husband, father, fisherman, friend, doctor of psychology, sobriety advocate, and spiritual shaman for many ~ we are forever changed. We believe he chose his time to go with bravery, grace, boldness and style ~ just like Dr. Wally would do.
One of the most important things in Dr. Wally’s life is his marriage to Ritamarie, the love of his life. They married in their kitchen in 1977 and simply by being with each other these many years have taught many people how to love with their whole heart.
Wally is and was a huge advocate for higher education, and he graduated from Michigan State University with his Bachelors in Psychology, from Central Michigan State with a Masters of Arts in Psychology, and from University of Milwaukee WI with his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 1975. We have always been amazed by his sharp mind, his dry wit, and his incredible analytical ability. If you ever had a problem you couldn’t solve, you could share with Dr. Wally and he would help you see it in a different way. We miss his beautiful mind dearly.
Wally gave the best hugs and was always ready for a “couple of cookies” after dinner. He loved baked goods, coffee, in depth conversations, fresh fruit and pancakes. He loved reading mystery novels and crime thrillers. If ever offered health food (aka nuts, seeds, celery, carrots, etc.), he’d say “no thank you, I don’t like rabbit food” :)
His biggest passion in life outside of his family was fishing. To say he was obsessed would be accurate. He travelled to his favorite place - Alaska, close to 20 times in his life and always came back with huge coolers of frozen fish fillets. He loved sharing the bounty with his friends and neighbors and would often gift people huge cuts of fresh caught, bright red sockeye salmon. After his retirement from private practice he began writing fishing articles and has published with Salmon Trout Steelheader, Wisconsin Natural Resources, Lake Superior Angler, Great Lakes Angler, and Swing the Fly magazines. We were all tickled pink when he showed up on the cover of Salmon Trout Steelheader a few years ago for his article on fishing the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.
Beyond fishing articles, Dr. Wally also wrote a book with friend and co-author Mark Sheets. It took them a couple years but they met regularly and got it finished. Entitled “Do You Want What We Have?”, the book is a guide for newly recovering alcoholics/addicts. Wally, who spent the last 44 years in AA, was very proud of their manuscript. Mark is working on getting it published so be on the look out!
Even though Dr. Wally had been sick these last few years, his passing this summer still seemed quite sudden. He had been through so many health struggles, and yet he was still in love with life. We are so very glad he made it out of the hospital and into hospice care for his final days. It was a family decision but one that he wholeheartedly wanted. He really started relaxing in hospice. He had beat both lung cancer and brain cancer, but the complications from treatment really took their toll on his body. His family is relieved that he is no longer dealing with these health complications and he is now peaceful, joyful, and pain-free. We see his wisdom all around us now and we are in awe of his powerful consciousness. We know he is here with us, still, and we visit with him in our dreams. He continues to guide our lives and live in our hearts. We know we will see him one day again, on the other side.
Family members who hold Wally closest are his wife Rita, son Luke, daughter Laura, sister Judi and brother Dave. Dr. Wally’s large AA community in White Bear and Hugo are also feeling his passing deeply. Many of you have reached out with condolences and we do appreciate those sentiments greatly. Reach out and check in over the next few weeks/months. Know that we are taking it one day at a time and moving slower than normal.
Our secular Celebration of Life Event for Dr. Wally is Friday October 27th, 2023 from 4-8pm at Bradshaw Funeral Home in White Bear Lake, MN. There will be catering, music, an informal service at 6pm, and of course - a couple of cookies.
On behalf of Dr. Wally's family, please RSVP here: https://www.celebratingthelifeofwallybalcerzakphd.com/rsvp
Donations can be made in Wally’s memory to:
Twin Town Treatment Center
1706 University Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55104