When Faye Walker went to Peck Funeral Home on Wednesday night for longtime arts supporter Edd Balch’s visitation, she was stunned by how many people stood in line to pay their respects.
Walker worked with Balch, who was instrumental in the development of the Hartselle Fine Arts Center in the spring of 2000 and College Street Players theater group.
Balch, 69, died Sunday. He was hospitalized for a heart attack following a service at Westmeade Baptist Church in Decatur that morning.
Walker said hundreds of mourners formed long lines inside the Hartselle funeral home and into the parking lot for several hours. Balch’s funeral was held Thursday at Westmeade Baptist.
“I’ve lived in Hartselle for years and have been to that funeral home many times, and I’ve never seen that many people,” Walker said. “I’ve never seen anything equal to it. His friends and the people he worked with really did turn out, and it shows you how much people respected him.”
Balch, who retired in 2010 after nearly 50 years in the insurance industry, directed and assisted numerous plays with the College Street Players. He spent the last 34 years working with young people in his church’s youth ministry, children’s choir leadership and substitute teaching.
Hartselle resident Shane Sieweke met Balch four years ago during a production of “A Christmas Carol” and said he became heavily involved in local theater because of Balch’s influence.
“My mom passed away in 2009, and no matter where I was or what I was doing, Edd always made sure to give me a hug and made sure I was smiling before we parted ways,” he said.
Dena Nagel, who worked alongside Balch at the fine arts center, said an ambulance was called to Westmeade Baptist on Sunday morning minutes after Balch sang with the church choir for the last time.
“It was a complete and total shock,” she said. “Edd always had a big smile on his face and always had a sunny little joke to tell. He was very light-hearted, but also kept you grounded by telling you the way things really were.”
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