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Joe Balsanek re-elected Hastings legion commander

Joe Balsanek has been re-elected commander of the Hastings American Legion Post 47.

Balsanek served in the Minnesota Air National Guard for 22 years in civil engineering during the Vietnam and Middle East Desert Storm war, retiring from military service in 1992.

His civilian career included an assistant professorship at Hamline University and a professorship at Inver Hills College, teaching Production Design and Technical Theatre over a 30- year period. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Adrian College (Michigan) and a master of fine arts degree from Ohio University. During that time he also wrote and published two plays and a public speaking textbook, “A Speaker’s Journey” which is now in its fifth edition.

He also owned his own company, Designs Plus, specializing in fine arts design as well as theater production design and technology. His work found him collaborating with former Guthrie Theatre Artistic Director Garland Wright in addition to designing productions for Theatre-in-the-Round, the Renaissance Festival, the Victorian Christmas Fair and over 100 theatrical productions for regional community, high school, university and college theaters. One particular highlight for him was working as a scenic painter on “Purple Rain,” the blockbuster Prince motion picture.

Balsanek also has an extensive resume in front of the footlights, having acted in many Midwest playhouses including Adrian College, the Croswell Opera House (Michigan,) the Gateway Playhouse (Michigan,) the Tecumseh Playhouse (Michigan) and the Ohio Valley Summer Theatre (Ohio.) Roles he played on stage included Captain Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” Billy Bigalow in “Carousel,” El Gallo in “The Fantastiks” and Curly in “Oklahoma.” He also served as Artistic Director of the Croswell Opera House for two years. As a musician he performed as a trombonist with the Twin Cities Symphony (Michigan,) the Michigan City Symphony Orchestra (Indiana) and the South Bend Symphony (Indiana.)

Now retired, Balsanek lives in Hastings with his wife of 46 years, Betsy, also an Adrian College graduate and retired instructor at Eagan High School and professor at University of Wisconsin, River Falls. They have three married children, Jennifer Herber who is a teacher at Hastings Middle School, Laura Storey who works as a counselor for People Incorporated, and son Joe who is a molecular geneticist at the Mayo Clinic and a flight crew chief with the Minnesota Air National Guard. Joe and Betsy’s six grandchildren are their pride and joy.

His time now in retirement is spent golfing, bowling, fishing, gardening and building dollhouses. He is also serving his second term on the Hastings City Council.