George Balasses, who ran Balasses House Antiques in Amagansett with his late wife, Teda Balasses, for over half a century, died at home on Fresh Pond Lane in that hamlet on Tuesday at the age of 97. He had suffered from dementia in the last years of his life.
The oldest of four children, Mr. Balasses was born in Lansing, Mich., on July 9, 1916, to Constantine Balasses and the former Mary Jetran. He graduated from General Motors Institute, now known as Kettering University, attending school with the future top executives of the auto industry, according to his nephew Dean Gilbert. He soon decided that the industry was not for him. “He had a major degree and he flipped it for the bohemian lifestyle,” Mr. Gilbert said yesterday. Mr. Balasses moved to Greenwich Village, where he painted.
During World War II, Mr. Balasses was a bomber pilot, flying a Martin B-26 Marauder. He served in the Army Air Corps in the South Pacific, frequently shuttling U.S.O. performers from show to show.
Upon being discharged back to civilian life, he returned to Greenwich Village, then went back to Europe, studying art in Florence and Rome on the G.I. Bill. When he returned to Greenwich Village, he took a job writing for The Village Voice, where he remained throughout the 1950s.
Early in that decade, Mr. Balasses met his future wife, Teda Kramer, on Cape Cod. The two were married on Sept. 4, 1957. “We had a very long getting-acquainted period,” he told The East Hampton Star after his wife’s death in 2008. Their marriage was a true union, he said. “Everything we did, we did together. One fed off the other.”
The couple settled in a house on Fresh Pond Lane. They took on real estate projects in the area, buying houses, fixing them up, and selling them. They did much of the work on these properties themselves. They also bought cottages that they rented out. One of his favorite regular tenants was Roy Lichtenstein. Mr. Balasses was very much at home in the East Hampton artist colony. Mr. Gilbert recalled his uncle telling him about a cookbook he had lent to Andy Warhol, who was doing a picnic at the beach. When Mr. Warhol returned the book, he had re-illustrated it. The book was lost long ago.
In 1959, the couple opened Balasses House Antiques, financed by a small loan from her mother. The couple traveled overseas buying antiques, frequently in London.
Eventually, they made antiques their fulltime business.
“We were very lucky, because there were a lot of very interesting people settling out on the East End at the time,” Mr. Balasses said in 2008. Artists were not the only ones coming into the shop. “There were a lot of show people around, whether we knew them or not.”
Mr. Balasses was a lover of literature and art. He also loved baking bread and several of his articles on the subject were published in The New York Times.
The couple had no children, and there are no immediate family members surviving.
Service plans have not yet been determined. Mr. Balasses will be cremated, and his ashes will be dispersed in a private ceremony with his seven surviving nieces and nephews.