Cover photo for Maxine Balaban's Obituary
1929 Micki 2024

Maxine Balaban

July 28, 1929 — May 4, 2024

Maxine 'Micki' Abbé Israel Balaban passed away in Newport, RI, on Saturday, May 4, 2024, after a gradual decline in health. She was three months shy of 95 years old.


Micki was born on July 28, 1929, to Bertram Eli Israel and Anne White Israel of Providence, RI. She was an ace student at Hope High School and the star of its theatrical productions, even writing her senior class play. She attended Pembroke College, the women's school at Brown University at the time, where she did well academically and starred in all the Soc 'N Buskin theater shows. Her beauty there was so renowned that the boys in her cohort gave her the nickname 'Champagne.'


During her senior year she met and began dating Brown classmate Leonard 'Red' Balaban, son of long-time president of Paramount Pictures Barney Balaban. After graduation, Micki was offered a Marshall Fellowship to study drama at the Young Vic Theatre in London, but her burgeoning relationship with Red took precedence. Instead of moving to the UK, she accepted an English instructor position at Pembroke while Red decamped to Gainesville, Florida to take agricultural extension courses. They eventually married on January 6, 1952, in New York City.


Micki and Red bought a ranch near Bonifay, Florida, and raised both Black Angus cattle and their young family there for the next 15 years. They welcomed their first child Mike in 1952, followed by Steve in 1955 and Rachel in 1958. Micki became a special education teacher at the nearby Ponce De Leon High School and, along with several friends, she and Red founded the Spanish Trail Playhouse, a local theater troupe that still exists to this day.


The family moved to West Haven, Connecticut, in 1967 so that Red could recognize his long-time ambition of becoming a Dixieland jazz musician. He would soon own-and lead the band at-the world-renowned Eddie Condon's nightclub in Manhattan. Micki meanwhile enrolled in a masters program at the University of Connecticut, where she graduated with a degree in rehabilitation counseling and then went on to work as a beloved guidance counselor at Naugatuck High School for the next 17 years.


Surprising no one, Micki's life in West Haven was anchored by a deep interest and curiosity about people, with particular dedication to those in her community who were disenfranchised or otherwise in need. She was a licensed Reiki practitioner and Gestalt therapist, led writing workshops for incarcerated men and women suffering from addiction, volunteered at an AIDs hospice, and, naturally, founded the local theater company, Theatre West.


Micki was an intelligent, talented, beautiful, and warm-hearted mother, teacher, and friend to many. She is survived by her children Mike, Steve, and Rachel, her daughter-in-law Kyle, her son-in-law John, five grandchildren (Isabel, Olivia, Max, Bret, and Sophie), three great grandchildren (Ela Moon, Zephyr Strong, and Isla Maxine), and too many friends to name.


Friends of Micki are invited by her family to Celebration of Life events at 2pm on Aug. 4, at Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, CT, and 2pm on Aug. 6 at Channing Memorial Church in Newport, RI. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Micki's name to the Neighborhood Music School, 100 Audubon St., New Haven, CT 06510 or the Potter League for Animals, 87 Oliphant Ln., Middletown, RI, 02842

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Maxine Balaban, please visit our flower store.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2024

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