WALNUT CREEK -- Eugene Ballock, the former principal of five middle and high schools in Lafayette, Orinda and Walnut Creek, has died following a long illness. He was 80.

"He was a man of character," said his daughter, Kim Johnson. "Above all else, he was the definition of doing the right thing. He never broke a law."

After retiring as a school administrator, Ballock mentored student teachers for Chapman University in Walnut Creek. He was a well-respected member of his church and community and leaves behind a large family and circle of friends, Johnson said.

Ballock and his wife, Lois, were married 58 years. They raised three children, who all attended Del Valle High in Walnut Creek, where Ballock was the school's last principal before it closed in 1979.

Previously, Ballock was principal of Inland Valley Intermediate in Orinda and Stanley and Fairview intermediate schools in Lafayette. After Del Valle closed, Ballock took the helm at Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek, until he retired in 1989.

"My dad always believed that there's a time and place for success for everyone and sometimes it's not when you're in high school and it will come later in life," Johnson said. "That's what I think is so great about him: He always gave people the benefit of the doubt."

Johnson said her father had a great sense of humor and loved kids, his family, his friends and his job. He also took great pride in his yard and carried this pride onto his campuses, where he often picked up trash, teaching by example, Johnson said.

"He had a zest for life," Johnson said. "He was a real spiritual guy, and he was smart. He was like a renaissance man. He loved art. He loved history. He was in a book club."

Ballock, who lived in Walnut Creek, died July 3. A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Walnut Creek United Methodist Church, 1543 Sunnyvale Ave., in Walnut Creek.

He is survived by his wife Lois, daughters Johnson and Terry Gianatasio, son Mark, six grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, sisters Linda McFarland and Cindi Doell Rutman, and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Walnut Creek United Methodist Church Memorial Fund or to Hospice of the East Bay, 3470 Buskirk Ave., Pleasant Hill, CA 94523.