Michael John Charles Balson
U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame
Died May 30, 2019.
Michael John Charles Balson, 71, of Bridport, England, passed peacefully from death to life in Jesus Christ on May 30, 2019, from complications associated with Lewy body dementia. His final days were spent surrounded by his loving wife, children, and friends. There will be two memorial services held to celebrate his remarkable life, one on June 15 in Orlando (4:00 PM, Banfield Funeral Home, 420 FL-434 Winter Springs, FL 32708), and one on June 22 in Atlanta (2:00 PM, HM Patterson & Son, Oglethorpe Hill Chapel, 4550 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30319).
Mike was born on Sept. 9, 1947. He is the oldest child of Donald and Joan Balson. He is survived by his wife, Julia, his children, Melanie and Oliver, his mother, Joanne, and his siblings, Richard, Christina and Jane. Mike also has five beloved grandchildren; Sydney, Sierra, Maddox, Zoe, and Judah.
Mike enjoyed a happy childhood in Bridport, where his father owned and operated R.J. Balson & Son, the family butcher shop, which has been in operation since 1515, most likely the oldest butcher shop in the world. He spent time helping in the butcher shop and enjoying cricket, water polo, rugby, and football (soccer). He captained the football team at Colfox school, was the youngest player to ever to play for Bridport FC, joined the Exeter City youth team, and was selected to the England Schoolboys team. In 1963, at the age of 17, he signed as a professional player at Exeter City Football Club. From 1963-1974, Mike played over 400 matches for the Exeter City first team. During that time, he was awarded his English Football Association coaching license and captained over 200 matches.
In 1974, Mike signed for Highlands Park FC and relocated to South Africa until 1979. He was selected to simultaneously play and coach the team for 3 years, kept a record-breaking run of 44 games unbeaten, and won the South African Cup three times, the League Cup three times, and the Coca Cola Cup twice. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment during his time in South Africa is his role in ending segregation in professional football by building an inter-racial squad.
In 1979, Mike signed with the Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League and relocated to Atlanta, GA with his young family. He would ultimately dedicate his career to promoting the game of soccer in the Atlanta area. During this time, he played against some of the world’s greatest players, including Pele, George Best, and Franz Beckenbauer. He coached at Georgia State University for three years, developed coaching programs for new coaches, and worked with the Special Olympics. In 1982, Mike was the player/assistant coach for the Georgia Generals of the ASL, and from 83-85, he coached at Dekalb Junior College. In 1986-87, Mike played his final season as a professional for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, capping off a 25 year long playing career.
From 1985-1990, Mike focused on player development, coaching, and private camps. His passion for the game resulted in the much loved “Mike Balson’s Soccer Academy,” the first indoor/outdoor soccer facility in the Southeast. The Academy produced and developed much of the best young talent in the game, including the “Steamers,” a top club in the state of Georgia, and several U.S. national players. Mike’s successful coaching career continued on for many more years with numerous club teams and with Georgia Perimeter College from 1993-1996.
From 1990-2001, Mike continued to promote the game as Assistant Commissioner for the USISL professional league. He was responsible for developing new team franchises on the East Coast, working with the MLS to identify talented draft candidates, setting league regulations, and resolving conflicts. From 2001-2003, Mike served as the General Manager of the Atlanta Silverbacks, rebuilding a team to a +500 record by focusing on signing local talent.
Mike’s love for the game, his experience as a player and coach, his active lifestyle, and his calm disposition made for a natural transition into the world of refereeing. While he began refereeing in the early 1980s, the early 2000s saw his most prolific time as a referee in the SEC and ACC. Mike had the honor of refereeing the 1999 NCAA Div. 1 Women’s Final and the 2002, 2004, and 2005 NCAA Div. 1 Men’s Finals.
In 2002, Mike was inducted into the United Soccer League Hall of Fame. In 2003, Mike was inducted into the GSSA Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2006, Mike was inducted into the NISOA Hall of Fame.
As a player, coach, and referee, Mike always personified professionalism and respected the game, his players, opponents, and colleagues. Apart from all of Mike’s professional accomplishments and honors, it is perhaps his character and influence on so many people that will be remembered the most. He was a man of strong faith who loved his Lord, his family, and others. Mike and his wife Julia spent over 30 years ministering to prisoners in Atlanta, GA. They also spent 20 years ministering to youth at Georgia Regional Hospital.
Known by many as the “Golden Eagle”, Mike approached soccer the same way he did life itself, with patience, kindness, wit, humility, and respect. He was a bridge builder, collaborator, and friend to all. He expected and pulled the best out of people, while always giving his best. He faced every obstacle with dignity.
He will be dearly missed, but his legacy lives on through every life that he touched. Rest in Peace, Mike Balson. The Golden Eagle is now soaring above the suffering that this world can bring.
We would like to thank all of our friends and family who have been a great comfort during this difficult time. We would also like to thank Share the Care for their tremendous support over the past four years. Condolences can be sent directly to either funeral home (Banfield Funeral Home, Winter Springs or HM Patterson, Oglethorpe Hill Chapel, Atlanta). If you feel led, donations can be made to Share the Care in Mike Balson’s name -- 1524 Formosa Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789."
Ernest Lee Johnson, Sr.
Former GISOA President, Referee and current namesake of the GISOA Referee of the Year Award and Honor Awards ,"Ernest Johnson Award", died on April 25, 2011 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
Ernie was one of Georgia's greatest soccer referees. He was a kind, compassionate and disciplined referee. Ernie was an excellent mentor and instructor for the association and was always willing to offer his candid and professional advice to young and veteran officials. His memory of generosity, professionalism and service to GISOA will always be remembered through his legacy, the "Ernest Johnson Award."
April 23, 2019
GISOA President Griff Sims
Not surprisingly, Ernie's impact on my life and his humble leadership hasn't faded with time. If anything, it continues to crystallize as I wind down to the end of my own time officiating . My reflections / perspectives continue to mirror closer to his. Sportsmanship and humility are the coveted highlight experiences on and off the field. Every time I think of Ernie, i think 'humble leader', 'intuitive listener', a gentle hand, a gentle man who walked the walk.
GISOA President Griff Sims
April 29, 2011
Ernie was one of Georgia's greatest soccer officials, where his God-given talents of class, professionalism, preparedness, empathy, & understanding bore witness on and off the field. He was an incredibly humble man - and a man of great leadership. He was dearly respected and loved by all of us in soccer, but moreover, helped shape hundreds of us as people. Hugely missed, but hugely celebrated.
Keith Ramker, former GISOA Referee died on August 1, 2020
On Saturday, August 1, 2020, loving husband, father, and grandfather, Keith Edward Ramker, 77, of Leesburg, FL died at his home after a three and a half year battle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. The Funeral Mass will be held on Friday, August 7, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Clermont, FL. Internment will occur later in Conyers, GA.
Keith was born January 24, 1943 in Charles City, IA to Gerald and Mary (Meek) Ramker. After growing up on the farm, he attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, studying accounting. His love of golf and the outdoors led him to a superintendent position at Sea Island Golf Course in St. Simons, GA. He married Judy Wolf on April 8, 1967 and raised two daughters, Heather and Shannon.
His career creating turn-key golf courses sent him throughout the southeast where he lived in Louisiana and Florida. He eventually took this knowledge and transitioned into sales and accounting for outdoor equipment distributors. This led him to a long stay in Georgia which eventually brought him back to Florida where he retired from Florida Outdoor Equipment in 2009.
In his free time he enjoyed coaching his daughters in soccer and later became a busy soccer referee traveling the college and semi-pro circuits in north Georgia.
After his retirement he became a Master Gardner and volunteered his time and talents at Discovery Gardens in Tavares, FL while continuing to create butterfly gardens at home. In 2011 he was awarded the Outstanding Gardens Service award for Lake County. He also spent years renovating and landscaping his yard for it to become certified as a Florida-friendly landscape in 2012. Through these efforts he created a natural habitat for wildlife and native Florida plants which is still being enjoyed today.
Keith is survived by his wife of 53 years, Judy of Leesburg, FL; his children, Heather Ekstrom and her husband Peter of Sugar Hill, GA and Shannon Meister and her husband Thomas of Alpharetta, GA; five grandchildren; step mother, Norma Ramker of Urbandale, IA; sisters Margery Wasicek of Mason City, IA, Linda Posekany of Sheffield, IA; brothers Tom Ramker (Diane) of Greene, IA, and Duane Ramker of Osage, IA and a host of nieces and nephews.
He is preceded in death by parents, Gerald and Mary (Meek) Ramker; grandparents Louis and Zula (Brown) Ramker, and John H. and Mary (Marzen) Meek; sister-in-law Beverly Ramker, brother-in-laws Dennis Wasicek and Gary Posekany.
U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame
Died August 31, 2017
From Griff Sims, President, GISOA:
We lost a treasured friend and member of our GISOA family last week. Most of today’s GISOA referees know Pierce as our assignor, but that role the past 27 years was just his 2nd half. He was a GISOA official for 32 years before continuing his work administratively. He helped advanced several of our officials to National Referee status and opportunities in the NCAA post season as well as in the ACC. He was a mentor and father figure to most all of us.
Memorial Services for Pierce Richardson were held Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.Union United Methodist Church 4600 Highway 138 SW, Stockbridge, Georgia, 30281
We would like to help his family with this untimely loss. We have established The Pierce Richardson Memorial Fund.Please make a donation check to:Pierce Richardson Memorial FundMail to: Stuart Dunn – 232 St. Andrews Ct, Social Circle, GA 30025
National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association
VOLUME 30, NUMBER 4
by Pierce Richardson
Over the years of a referee’s career one may tend to
focus on refereeing only and not on other opportunities
provided by NISOA. Knowing this, in addition to refereeing
several questions should come to mind such as:
• What will be my contribution and involvement with NISOA
after I leave the field or even while still refereeing?
• How? Potential opportunities assessing, assigning, clinician,
I remember back in the early 70’s when I first started officiating.
Every Saturday morning I would go to the local YMCA and
work my 4 or 5 U-6 & U-8 games and EVERY Saturday morning
Mr. Bill O’Toole was there. At this time Mr. O’Toole was in his late
60’s or early 70’s and still had a love for the game that few share.
I would be the referee and Mr. O’Toole would be one of the linesmen
(as it was called then) for me, then he would be the referee
and I would be the linesman. After all of our games were over,
Mr. O’Toole would take me to a shady spot and sometimes we
would spend an hour or more talking about the games and how I
could improve. Mr. O’Toole is no longer with us, but he will always
be remembered by me and many others for what he gave back to
the game and each of us.
One thing NISOA needs is mentors. The organization is currently
developing a formal mentoring program. A seasoned
NISOA member could start informally mentoring now. There is no
need to wait until being asked or told that help is needed. Mentors
differ from assessors or clinicians in that they assist members with
less experience with the overall NISOA culture and become a person
of reference on a more personal basis.
There are many ways a person can mentor another referee.
Some have a great aptitude for fitness, thus can mentor someone
in how to better stay in shape and train. Some have refereed at
the highest level of collegiate soccer and can mentor someone in
achieving this level. Some of you work in a corporate environment
or you are school teachers and can mentor someone in responding
to difficult situations with assessors, assignors, clinicians,
other referees or game management.
Mentoring is not limited to young or new referees. The options
are out there. The key is to take the first step in helping someone.
When I first started officiating college games I was very fortunate,
because I came along at a time when there were many Bill
O’Tooles in the local NISOA chapter who would spend hours and
hours helping me and other young officials develop our abilities.
Once I heard an individual I respected say, "I don’t want to be
forgotten when I retire from refereeing, I want to help someone
take my place" I didn't quite understand what he meant until several
years later when I realized all the time and dedication this
person gave to me.
We have all heard Dr. Bernabei say many times Family first,
job second and refereeing third, but that should not stop any of us
from looking for a few minutes to help someone along the way.
The world has changed a lot since Mr. O’Toole and I sat in the
shade and talked about our U-6 & U-8 games for that morning. I
know most everyone has a hundred things going on in their life
and as soon as the game is over we want to get back to those
things. There are many ways you can find a few minutes to spend
with your crew for the day and talk about the game and how each
of you might have done something different. For example: What
about stopping along the way and have refreshments? Better yet
whenever possible ride to the game together or least part of the
way and use this time going and coming to help each other
become better NISOA officials.
A few extra hours in bringing someone along will go miles in
continuing the tradition of NISOA - producing quality college officials.
When your time comes to step away, you can then be proud
that you mentored someone who became your replacement and
they too will then have a Mr. O’Toole to remember.