By Dale Woodard on January 6, 2021.
A local relative of a northern Alberta man killed in a helicopter crash remembers her cousin as someone whose door was always open for family and friends and also loved a good adrenaline rush.
Wade Balisky, 45, and Aubrey Balisky, 37, and two of their children, Jewel, 8, and Fleur, 2 were identified by loved ones Sunday as the four family members who died in a helicopter crash on New Year’s Day when their Robinson R44 helicopter crashed in a farmer’s field about 100 kilometers northeast of Grande Prairie.
The family lived on a ranch in the small farming hamlet of DeBolt, about 45 kilometres east of Grande Prairie and are survived are survived by their three other children, Chevey, 16, Remington, 14, and Indya, 12.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Wade’s first cousin, Aurellea Balisky, remembers him as someone who enjoyed a good adrenaline boost as much as he loved his family and giving back to the community.
“Most of my cousins are adrenaline junkies, to varying degrees, and Wade was no exception,” she said. “I was an extremely cautious, stay-safe child and I can remember thinking he was so brave and adventurous. He was always out there with the men herding cattle, driving tractors, chasing down and catching stray cattle on horseback.”
When Wade was a teen, he and another cousin built a skateboarding half-pipe in his backyard.
“When I was there visiting, I was often sitting by that half- pipe, watching him fall and get back up and keep going,” said Balisky.
Balisky said both their fathers as well as two uncles were private pilots who spent many hours in the air.
“Cessnas, Pipers, helicopters, crop dusters and hot air balloons are some of the Balisky family vehicles,” she said. “He was working on becoming a pilot quite early on in life.”
A statement from the family said Wade and Aubrey – who shared a deep Christian faith and would have celebrated their 20th anniversary Jan. 19 – loved their extended family, friends and neighbours and the coffee was always on at their farm and their door always open.
“Family was very important to him,” said Balisky. “He co-farmed/ranched with two of his siblings, large-scale, from Grande Prairie to Peace River. The Baliskys in general are extremely close-knit as a group. There were 30 of us first cousins from the 10 siblings, and now countless spouses and children from that. He probably knew everyone’s name, or at least which family branch they belonged to. They cared about people.”
Balisky recalled a time she was in an “ugly situation” and turned to Aubrey for help during a phone conversation.
“She was perfect in calming me down, getting me to talk about it to lift my weight on my shoulders, then she prayed with me and I really did have peace,” she said. “They did some counselling through a non-profit organization because they wanted everyone to be well, feel loved and have hope. They were both like that, kind and caring.”
Despite being safety conscious as a child, Balisky said Wade would still invite her along to whatever he was doing.
“He knew I usually said ‘no’ to the adventures, but he still asked and I have always appreciated that,” he said. “Something as small as that still let me know I mattered, even if I was boring. I can’t remember ever being mad at him because he was always nice. It was genuine. He was very genuine. He was so very nice.”
Balisky remembered a trip north in her early 20s, quadding around Wade’s ranch one afternoon.
“In spite of having been there countless times in life, he showed me places on the ranch I hadn’t been to before, including the most magnificent view on the banks of the Smokey River,” she said. “He didn’t ask me questions, tell me what to do, or judge. He was just there, and that quad trip did more for me that I think he realized. I have not seen him since the birth of his youngest daughters because life happens and I do not go north much. I regret that I never told him what that quad trip meant to me.”
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