Sam Balloff, age 100, passed away peacefully on Saturday, September 30th, 2023, in Knoxville with his children, David and Eleanor, by his side.

Sam was born on June 26, 1923, in LaFollette, TN, to Esther and Louis Balloff, and he led a full, incredible life filled with treasured family and friends of all ages. Sam grew up in Lafollette, a city dear to him. He graduated high school from McCallie School in Chattanooga and later received his bachelor of business administration at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As a student leader, the manager of the men’s basketball team and a big man on campus, Sam was named “Bachelor of Ugliness” in 1947. That was the highest honor a male undergraduate could receive at that time– and one that always brought him great pride.

During World War II, Sam served his country with honor. He left college for a period of time to serve in the Army from 1943 to 1946, where he bravely drove munitions throughout Europe supporting the 78th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle at the Remagen Bridge. His dedication to his country and military service was unwavering, and he was very honored to join fellow East Tennessee veterans on Honor Air Knoxville in 2013. In the past several years, Sam has been featured on news affiliates around the state, and via podcasts, sharing his experiences as one of the oldest living WWII veterans in Tennessee.

On his return to Vandy after the end of WWII, he was set up on a date by his sister. That is when he met his future bride, Sylvia Bee Simon, a student at Ward Belmont. Sylvia and Sam married in 1949, and raised their family in Lafollette as Sam worked alongside his father and brother in the family business, Balloff’s. During the years of expansion into Oak Ridge and Knoxville, Sam moved his family to Knoxville. Alongside his sons, his brother Edward, & Edward’s children, the business grew to five stores until closing in 1992.

Sam found strength in his faith. He and his family are third generation members of Heska Amuna Synagogue, where he commuted as a child to observe holidays. He continued that important connection later as an adult for he and Sylvia committed to further their children’s Jewish education while living in Lafollette. Many of his religious values were influenced by his mother, Esther, as her wisdom provided him with guidance and comfort throughout his life, most especially in the untimely losses of his spouses, son and so many dear relatives.

Sam shared his leadership skills to help better our community. In the early 70’s, Sam headed an effort to fund a new medical outpatient clinic serving the needs of Clairfield, TN. He was joined in this effort by medical students and doctors from Vanderbilt and Sister Marie Cirillo, of blessed memory. Sam served on boards of the Webb School of Knoxville, the East Tennessee Regional Boy Scouts Council, and was a member of the University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Associates. He was an active alumnus of the McCallie School and served as a Bearden Rotarian-chairing fundraising projects and serving as a math tutor at Pond Gap Elementary School. With his friends, the Heins Family, Sam dedicated time to coaching the Bearden High School Golf Team. He is a past recipient of the National Council of Christians and Jews Brotherhood award. Next to his family, Sam loved sports of all kinds, and although his allegiance was to Vanderbilt, Vol sports were always his favorite.

Sam leaves behind a loving family, including his sister, Eve Margolies; his children, Eleanor Seline (Richard), David Balloff (Judy), and his daughter in law, Judy Gelpey (Chuck); his adored grandchildren, Scott Balloff (Emily), Jennifer Smallman (Andrew), and Jay Seline; his great-grandchildren Landon, Peyton, Lara and Ilana; his devoted nieces and nephews-the children of Edward and Eve. He was preceded in death by his parents, his spouses, Sylvia Simon Balloff in 1977, and Margaret Waters Balloff in 2000; beloved son, Mark; loving brother, sister in law, and niece, Edward and Janet Balloff, and Barbara Heilman.

Sam is someone whose presence will be deeply missed by anyone who had the privilege to know him. He leaves behind his step daughters, his Sturm family cousins, and his cherished neighbors —-Sam truly lived his life appreciative that it was one full of blessings. He leaves a legacy of love, strength, honor, integrity, and always…he could work a room like nobody’s business.

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, October 3rd at 11:00 am at Rose Funeral & Cremation – Mann, 6200 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, to honor and celebrate Sam’s life. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations to be made to Covenant Home Care and Hospice General Fund of The Fort Sanders Foundation, 280 Fort Sanders West Blvd., Suite 202 , Knoxville, TN 37922 in tribute to Sam’s philanthropic spirit and his commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of others. Online condolences may be made at

Special thanks to Dr Tadhg Hart & Lisa of Summit Medical Group and to Andrew Scruggs, Always Best Care & Krystal P, Krystal M, Abby, Taylor and Ava …for their loving, compassionate care of Sam.

May Samuel Alvin Balloff rest in eternal peace, and may his memory be a blessing.

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