In Memoriam: Carole Rene Balzekas

OFFICIAL OBITUARY

Carole Rene Balzekas passed away peacefully at her home in New Buffalo, Michigan, sometime after July 27, 2021.  She was predeceased by her Father, Stanley Balzekas, Jr., and her mother, Irene Balzekas (nee Radvilas).  She is survived by her brothers, Stanley (Sigita Bersenas) Balzekas III; Robert (Daiva Bidva) Balzekas; godchildren, niece Irena Balzekas and Austin Bagdady; nephews, Vasaris, Matthew, and Lukas Balzekas; nieces, Maggie and Eva Balzekas; many cherished friends; and her beloved dog, Luna.

Carole was born on May 31,1960, in Chicago. She attended the Latin School (‘78), Emory University (BA ‘80) and DePaul University (MBA ’90). She bowed as a debutante in the Chicago Lithuanian Women’s Club Amber Ball, and she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Later in life, she studied at the Cordon Bleu Academy in Paris. 

She served as a trustee of Northern Illinois University and a director of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. She was a proud member of the Balzekas Museum’s Women’s Guild. For many years she worked in retail sales, beginning at her family’s multi-generational business, Balzekas Motor Sales in Chicago, where for a time she sold accessible vans to people with disabilities. Her empathy, charisma, and willingness to go an extra mile for her customers made her a superb salesperson. 

She spent the latter years of her life in New Buffalo, Michigan, where she found a warm and accepting community. She worked intermittently in hospitality, most recently as a chef at the Four Winds Casino and Resort, and indulged in her pastime: collecting and reselling antiques and vintage finds.

Carole had many talents, gifts, and opportunities.  Fun and fun-loving, ebullient, and fearless, she easily struck up conversation and turned strangers into friends wherever she went. A generous and consummate hostess, she could whip up gourmet meals in a flash and welcomed everyone to her table. She loved to travel and had a free and adventurous spirit. Quick-witted, perceptive, and a rule bender by nature, she could charm and disarm most who stood in her way. Creative and resourceful, she made difficult things seem easy but struggled with the mundane. 

In the end, Carole could not overcome all of her obstacles: some inherited, some learned, and others of her own making. At 16, Carole suffered the death of the person many said she most resembled—her beautiful and vivacious mother—whose untimely passing left an inextinguishable mark on her young daughter. Like many forced to grow up too early, Carole retained a childlike spirit throughout her life. She was happiest at the beach, where she could spend time with her dogs, her friends and neighbors, and her warmest memories.  Even though she had experienced the finer things in life, she took comfort in simple pleasures: hearty meals, long phone conversations, and afternoon naps.  

Those who knew and loved Carole will remember her at springtime, when her favorite flower, lily of the valley, comes into bloom and at her favorite time of day, from sunset onwards, when the last rays of light and strains of after-dinner conversation fade into the night. 

Family and friends are invited to gather for Mass Intention this Sunday, August 22, at the 9:30 AM English Mass, Nativity Blessed Virgin Mary Church, 69th and South Washtenaw in Marquette Park, Chicago, Illinois, 60629. A private celebration of her life will be held at a later date. Donations in Carole’s memory may be made to the Women’s Guild of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 6500 S. Pulaski Rd., Chicago, IL 60629 or by linking to the donor form in the right column of this page and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (https://nami.org).

Donations in memory of Carole Balzekas may be made to the Women’s Guild of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture by completing the Memorial Donations form below:

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