John Balmat - Police Chief 1973-1981

John Balmat 1981
John Balmat 1981

John R. Balmat served over 30 years in the Bratenahl Police department, earning the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, and finally as the Chief of Police for eight years.  John probably knew everyone in Bratenahl. He was a pleasant man drawn to police work because he liked “dealing with the public.”

He was not just an administrator but part of the patrol schedule to demonstrate police presence. That allowed him plenty of contact with the public. He stated, “I believe that the backbone of police work is a high level of uniformed patrol. Deterring crime is a heck of a lot easier and cheaper than investigating it.”

“He is one fine officer, a no-nonsense individual,” said Mayor McKeon. “A tough boss but not unfair. Self-discipline and resolve came easily to Balmat.”

On August 19, 1928, John Balmat was born in Louisville, Ohio, to Walter and Hazel Balmat. He graduated with honors from St. Ignatius High School in 1946. As a 150-pound lineman at St. Ignatius, he faced long odds against making the varsity football team. John bought a set of weights and began lifting them with a passion. “I may not have been the biggest kid, but darn it, I was going to be the strongest,” he proclaimed. By the end of the season, John was 20 pounds heavier. He was an all-scholastic tackle on the first St. Ignatius team to play in the 1946 Charity Football Game during the Thanksgiving holiday at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

After St. Ignatius, John attended John Carroll University. He continued to further his education through classes at the Northwestern University Traffic Institute, Notre Dame College, Case Western Reserve University, and the F.B.I. National Academy, where he earned additional credit hours through the University of Virginia.

John married Marian Essel, born on December 15, 1930, to Rudolph and Mary Essel. John and Marian had five children: William J, Sue (Stephen), Robert, Timothy J., and JoAnn (Bacnik).

John’s professional affiliations included the F.B.I. National Academy Associates, the Ohio Chiefs of Police Association, Cuyahoga County Police Association, the Crime Clinic, Inc. of Cleveland, and the Fraternal Order of Police – Bratenahl Lodge.

In 1956, Balmat’s weight training brought him the Mr. Ohio bodybuilding title. His fitness interest led to a twelve-year career as a part-time physical education teacher at Holy Cross and St. Paul schools in Euclid, Ohio.

After retiring from police work in 1981, John had a second career in corporate security at Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company for ten years before finally retiring for good. John and Marian continued to support and work in their community. They volunteered for many years with the Cleveland Clinic, where they were recognized as the Cleveland Clinic’s volunteers of the year.

John was a member of the Holy Name Society and the St. Ignatius Alumni Association.

Marian died on January 20, 2019. John died on June 15, 2020.