DEARBORN HEIGHTS — A pastor dedicated to his flock, a kind soul willing to give to those in need, and a baseball player who earned the nickname “slugger,” Fr. Edwin Balazy was in love with his priesthood.

The longtime pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Dearborn Heights devoted his time to serving others, friends say, making the sacrament of reconciliation readily available and enjoying a good Golumpki whenever possible.

Fr. Ed Balazy died on July 21. He was 83.

“Fr. Ed has this sense of being happy being a priest,” said Canon Walter Ptak, pastor of St. Sebastian Parish in Dearborn Heights and current administrator of St. John the Baptist and St. Albert the Great in Dearborn Heights. 

Canon Ptak’s family were friends with Fr. Balazy’s family growing up in Wyandotte, and he said Fr. Balazy’s priesthood was a big factor in his own vocation story.

“He was always present for his people; that was his No. 1 priority,” Canon Ptak told Detroit Catholic. “The people of St. John’s just loved him because he was always there for them on life’s journey. He always had a smile and loved jokes. He was a well-rounded guy in that sense. He was who he was: a good, hard-working priest.”

Fr. Edwin Balazy smiles in this undated photo. A priest “who was always there for his people,” Fr. Balazy served almost four decades as pastor of one parish — St. John the Baptist in Dearborn Heights — a rarity for a parish priest. 

Edwin Balazy was born Aug. 10, 1936, in Wyandotte, one of four sons of Alexander and Lillian Balazy.

Fr. Balazy was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit by Cardinal John F. Dearden on June 2, 1962, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

After serving as an associate pastor of St. Raymond (1962-66) and St. Hyacinth (1966-71) parishes in Detroit, Fr. Balazy was pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Detroit from 1971 to 1979.

In July 1979, Fr. Balazy became pastor of St. John the Baptist in Dearborn Heights, where he impacted countless souls for 39 years, former parishioners say. He retired in 2018.

“He came to us from Immaculate Conception; little did we know he’d be our pastor for almost 40 years,” said Tom Koselka, who along with his wife, Valerie, has been a parishioner at St. John the Baptist since 1976. “He was very outgoing to parishioners. He said, ‘This is your parish, however you want to do things, I’ll do my best.’ He was very generous when people needed help, helping others almost to a fault. When (the Society of) St. Vincent de Paul called, he would always make a point of saying, ‘We’re here to help you get on your feet, but we won’t adopt you.’”

Fr. Balazy gave quick homilies, Koselka recalled, never lingering on a topic when a short, direct message would get the point across.

Fr. Balazy releases a dove outside St. John the Baptist Parish in Dearborn Heights in this file photo.

“He loved to make people smile,” Koselka said, adding Fr. Balazy enjoyed golf and traveling. “He always had a joke in his pocket that seemed to disarm any tense situation.”

He was also an accomplished baker, Valerie Koselka said, producing strawberry pies and Golumpki (Polish stuffed cabbage) for parish events.

“He just had this comforting presence,” Valerie Koselka said. “He always went out on first Fridays to make sick calls, taking people Communion, hearing confessions. When he couldn’t drive, people drove him. He would never say no to a hospital visit; he’d drop anything he was doing to visit someone who needed him.”

When Canon Ptak was serving as director of human formation at SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Fr. Balazy reached out to ask whether he could help on weekends at St. John the Baptist. 

“I was with him for four years on the weekends, and then when I left the seminary they sent me to St. Sebastian, two miles from his parish,” Canon Ptak said. “So when Father got sick, he made it known he wanted to retire, but stay at St. John’s. I became administrator when he was living in the rectory. So after growing up with him in Wyandotte, it came full circle with me helping him out in life after he helped me so much in my priesthood.”

Fr. Balazy was predeceased by his parents and brothers Sigmund Klimkiewicz and Chester Klem. He is survived his brother Stanley (the late Pamela) Balazy and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.

Fr. Balazy’s funeral Mass was celebrated July 25 at St. John the Baptist, and he was laid to rest at Michigan Memorial Park Cemetery in Flat Rock. Condolences may be sent to Stanley Balazy, 26123 McDonald Ave., Dearborn Heights, 48125.

“Fr. Balazy was always willing to help out,” Canon Ptak said. “Whether it was a visit or a card, he took time for anyone. Some priests are great leaders; some priests are great scholars. He was a priest who was there for his people — a good man who, at the end of his life, said he was ready to go home. I think we all wish that at our end.”