Memories of Les

Lester Allen Balderson



What most young checker players don't know:  It was Les, the principal behind the establishment of the ACF trust funds and his bonding and friendship that brought in the bulk of the first money we have in our ACF fund accounts.  He and Clint Pickard held GAYP Nationals back to back in the mid 70s in North Carolina (77, 79, & 81).  The 1976 3-Move Nationals was held in Sanford, NC with a player entrants of 114 which was close to the record set at Paxton, IL's National, a  record of 117 in 1950, and breaking the 94 number for Lakeside, OH in 1954. The largest entrants record to date of any National is 168 at the 1978 3-Move Nationals in Murfreesboro, TN.  Nothing has come close to this phenomenal record. The second largest was in 1990 with 130 at the 3-Move Nationals in Tupelo, Miss. plus 7 youth entrants, and again in 1988 at the 3-Move Nat. in Danville, VA with 123 entrants.  Nothing has come closer, only 97 entered in 2001 US GAYP  Nationals - Las Vegas. 


Clint hosted several more Nationals the following years with Lester's supervision and guidance. There were bid venues for 3-Move but no interest in Un-Restricted or Go-As-You-Please.  In the late 70's & early '80 Derek E. Oldbury was so impressed with the aggressive style of Albrecht, Bruch, Lafferty, Lowder, Scheidt and other master players at the Nationals in Sanford, NC that he bequeathed the ACF funding to insure the continuance of the GAYP National Tournaments. Les worked with Derek, setting up the trust so as to satisfy his concerns about the structure, purpose and perpetuity. We are all indebted to this fine English gentleman and World Checker Champ.  Derek was known in the checker fraternity as "DEO" from Devon, England (Derek Edward Oldbury).  DEO died July 9, 1994. The bulk of our ACF Trust Fund is from his deposits.  Derek married Joan White in late December 1962, who was also wheelchair bound.  Joan Oldbury died in 1980 and Derek gave us the fund in the honor of his late wife.  This fund was set up as the "Joan Oldbury Fund," ($20,000 /1981) with addition amounts later.  Les was big on the ACF Life-Time membership programs, "The 200 Club" as 3-MOVE and GAYP which he started and always pitched the advantages of becoming an ACF Life Member at the opening of each tournament registration. Saying, "If you like playing checkers and feel you will continue, then it makes good sense to join ACF as a Life-Time Member, it's a good deal for you and ACF." These Life-Time members' name were published yearly in the ACF bulletin. These Life-Time Membership fees have been increased over time, but the membership fees stay intact upon the death of the member. Both Life-Time Membership clubs offered a member who purchased basically a lump sum of 5 years of subscriptions & entry fees, a free Lifetime ACF membership bulletin subscription, lifetime National entry fee exemption, and you received the top 50 3-Move Master Games annotated by a Master or Grandmaster after each tourney, way before they eventually made it into the bulletins.  The 200 GAYP Club membership offered exemption at the GAYP National and the top 50 GAYP games. It cost $100 initially but increased to $200. The idea was to stabilize and lock in membership revenues and the interest & dividends from these accounts would pay the bulletin publishing & postage of those members and the additional yield would support 3-Move and GAYP Nationals and checkers as ACF leadership saw fit; however hearsay has it as the GAYP fund disappeared in 2002-2003.  I recall seeing a 1990 financial report from Les to the officers (Executive Committee) detailing the year-end balance of the Joan Oldbury account as approximately $48K (these are not the exact figures because I don't remember) which included two accounts and interest for that year. Approximately $3-4K was ear-marked for the 91 National Prize Fund, paid out to the top 4 finishers as: 30%, 25%, 20%, 15%.  The GAYP Life-Time Club had 101 members as of 12/31/1990 and approximate balance of $12.5K with a $1K considered for the 1991 GAYP WTM prize fund.  The next published figures on ACF finances shown to the general membership were published in the 2003 ACFB.


I recall Clint Pickard telling me Les started playing NC and Southeastern - District IV tournaments in the late 50's.  He played and supported professional tournament checkers for over 25 years, obtained a master rating (2282 in 2004).  Les Balderson almost won the 1977 GAYP Nationals in Sanford but placed 2nd because of time limits

(Article).   Les won the Major Division at the 1978 Nationals 3-Move Tournament in Murfreesboro, TN.  He was an active ACF President, a fine administrator, and   built a solid ACF foundation which we should expand on.  


I don't know many men like Les who had more integrity and honor. It's in his nature to be accountable, detailed, and straight forward.  He went to the Merchant Marines' Academy at Kings Point, NY, commissioned during the heat of WWII and served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters, and continued until his discharge as Captain, having seen and navigated most major canals and sea lanes throughout the world.


Then he went to work for Esso Oil, (Standard Oil) which later becomes Exxon, and there he went from 3rd to 1st Mate on the largest tankers in the world at that time.  He later finished  his "sea-legs" career with Menhaden Fishing Fleet.  This was the premiere US Commercial Fishing Fleet Co., back then.  They had the largest and most modern US menhaden purse seine fishing trawler operation, and harvested Atlantic menhaden with the fleets landed their daily catches at reduction plants from New York to Florida.  During the peck years of menhaden landing (1953-1960) the US commercial menhaden fleet experienced significant changes as larger, faster vessels replaced outdated models, forced by the Russians & Japanese who were the World's authority on catching, processing, freeze packing, and canning seafood, according to Les.  They can do it all on a single ship.  When a plane located a school, two purse boats with a net stretched between them are deployed.  The purse boats encircle the school and close the net to form a purse or bag.  The net is then retrieved to concentrate the catch, and the mother ship (reduction plant) comes alongside and pumps the catch into refrigerated holds.  Les knew two things would happen, the Atlantic would be over-fished and fewer vessels needed to do it.  With this in mind, he landed a career position in Richmond in the early '60 with Chesapeake Bay Commission.  This was before US had giant freezing factory trawlers like the "Alaska Oceana" a 22,000 ton factory trawler harvesting pollock from the Bering Sea, which was considered a trash fish in Les's day.  The size is like 400 feet and a crew of 130.  They fish for pollock, a bug-eyed, bottom-dwelling whitefish used for products including Gorton's fish sticks, McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and imitation crab legs, frozen whitefish fillet, etc.  If you eat fish sticks and fast-food fish sandwiches you are eating pollock, over a million tons annually with 1.5 million tons caught in 2004 from Alaskan waters. This will only lead to over-fishing the pollock population, which dwell along the Bering Sea's continental shelf, according to Les.  It is by far the most abundant and propagating species, and mainstay of Puget Sound-based trawl fleets, mostly out of Dutch Harbor, hub of the Bering Sea fishing industry.  Les and the other captains of the Menhaden fleet fished the Atlantic to Northern Atlantic, but not in this fashion, he wouldn't have even if he had the means to back then.  You could tell Les was concerned about the ecosystem, and was well educated about the fishing industry.  He did it all from these type of vessels: freighters, tankers, and trawlers some powered by steam, steam turbine, diesel, gas, to cng.  He shed his sea-legs and become a land-lubber in Richmond, working for the State of Virginia - Chesapeake Bay Commission for 27 years as a environmental engineer, consultant, and advisor to tri-state legislative commission to advise the General Assemblies of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania on Bay-wide issues and concerns for the State Water Control Board.


He spent a lifetime promoting our great game - CHECKERS, of that time he served as ACF Secretary for 4 years, after taking office in 1982 from Burke Grandjean , and another 17 consecutive years as ACF President, following President Homer Caulkins of Los Angeles.  He also was the President of The Old Dominion Checker Association (ODCA) and the tournament director during the majority of this time.  Les was an ACF 2312 rated player in 2005.


I've heard him talk about the war and his sea adventures and how honor and integrity was a part of his fabric and soul. 


Lester is resting in Central Chapel of Bennett Funeral Home at 3215 Cutshaw Avenue Richmond, VA  23230-5009    804-359-4481:  visitation: 2-4pm Saturday July 30th and 4-7pm Sunday July 31st  The Funeral is 1:00pm Monday at St John's United Church of Christ, 503 N Lombardy Street, Richmond, VA  23220-3616   804-358-9291    Lester Allen Balderson's Funeral Program


A Checker Friend, JR Smith

Les vs Elbert  -  Michael vs Alex in Masters' Playing Room - This was
his last checker tournament -


Les Balderson in background playing in the 1988 Southeastern District 4 in Ahoskie, NC


Sympathy Card

Old Newspaper articles featuring Lester Balderson

Les Balderson's Condition?

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