July 14, 2024

George Ballas, Inventor of the Weed Whacker, Dies at 85

Then one day in 1971 he took his car to a car wash and was watching those whirling soapy brushes sweeping the grime away. Aha! Could something like that trim the grass and slash the weeds around the trees, between the rocks and under the fences?

Back home, Mr. Ballas poked holes in a tin can, strung strands of fishing line through the holes, attached the contraption to a rotary lawn edger, and the Weed Eater was born — or what is more generally known as the weed whacker, a device that has reshaped the landscaping industry and delighted amateur gardeners.

Mr. Ballas died on June 25 in Houston at the age of 85, his son Corky said.

Mr. Ballas’s invention has become “one of the crucial tools to our industry, especially for landscaping,” Mark Fisher, director of horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, said on Thursday. “Of your landscape and turf crews, everybody has one.”

For those professionals and for everyday gardeners, Mr. Fisher said, “It’s like putting the icing on the cake because it’s really the last thing you do for that final trimming, so everything looks crisp and clean.”

Horticulture was not Mr. Ballas’s primary passion. He was the owner of a dance studio in Houston with 43,000 square feet of space and more than 100 instructors. But after he perfected his invention, he started the Weed Eater Corporation, promoted it on television nationwide and built a business that was eventually bought by Emerson Electric. There are now many Weed Eater models and sizes.

Several feet long, the typical device has controls in the handle and an electric motor at the trimmer head, which houses a coiled, plastic cord that spins and cuts like a scythe at extremely high speeds inside protective guards. (Some models are gasoline-powered and started with pull cords, much like a lawn mower.)

George Charles Ballas was born in Ruston, La., on June 28, 1925, one of three children of Charles and Maria Lymnaos Ballas. Besides his son Corky, who has performed on the television show “Dancing With the Stars,” Mr. Ballas is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Maria Marulanda; another son, George Jr.; three daughters, Michelle Pritchard, Maria Jamail and Lillian Miles; a brother, Peter; and seven grandchildren.

Mr. Ballas enlisted in the Army when he was 17 and served as a bombardier during World War II. After the war, he worked for both the Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire dance studio franchises. Then, in the late 1950s, he opened his studio in Houston.

Corky Ballas said his father was something of a perfectionist: “He timed everything. He could swipe that tree in less than 60 seconds and not harm that tree. He would cut 10 trees in 10 minutes and go off to work. He liked being known as the Weed King.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a850dbe32e8552c55250b2dc3fba1ab6

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