George Francis Balbo

CHINA – George Francis Balbo, 69, of China, passed away peacefully at home on Dec. 9, 2019, after a brief and courageous battle with an aggressive form of cancer, succumbing less than four weeks after his initial diagnosis and leaving his broad circle of family and friends shocked and heartbroken at his passing.

Born and raised in the Cleveland, Ohio area, George grew up in a large family as one of 12 children, graduating from Lakewood High School in 1968.

In 1971 he began dating his future wife, Mary (née Eiben) and soon after they followed one of his sisters to Maine to live in the Twitchell Hill community in Montville.

Beginning his career as a machinist, George also worked at various times as a firetower watchman, farmhand, roofer, surveyor’s assistant and more, but most of his career was as a talented, self-taught, and self-employed carpenter.

By 1975 George and Mary were married and had settled in China, where George, over the years, transformed their 1780s, one-room house into a multi-story, hand-built, off-grid home. Accomplished gardeners and homesteaders, George and Mary had huge gardens where they grew and preserved a large part of their year’s supply of vegetables, leaving surplus for neighbors at their roadside stand.

George’s kind and loving nature drew people to him. Having survived an abusive childhood, George found sobriety and mental health in his early 30s; his openness about his challenges and successes drew admiration and inspired many others. He worked tirelessly every day and was strong and fit until his illness. There was nothing George loved more than visiting with family and friends; he was a legendary storyteller at any gathering and especially around his dining room table. He had an innate ability to make people feel comfortable and cherished. He had an expansive memory and a fact or song lyric (usually rock or blues) ready for any situation. He was charming, hilarious, and had an insatiable curiosity about others and the world in general. He rarely met a stranger who didn’t become a friend after their first meeting.

George was a voracious reader and a seemingly endless fountain of knowledge. Whenever someone (usually his younger daughters) would doubt something he said, he’d always say, “Don’t believe me? Look it up.” And 99 percent of the time he would be right. George had a special understanding and love of trees and the natural world. Two of his other great loves were Native American history and spirituality, and classic cars and motorcycles. More than anything else, though, George loved his family and was always quick to express affection and love to them. Family to him meant not only relatives but also the wide circle of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances he loved catching up with and those who responded to his gentle, sweet soul. Anyone who visited with George at his house will remember how he never let you leave without walking you to your car, chatting just a little bit longer, and waving you off as you left.

George is survived by his best friend and loving wife, Mary Balbo; daughter, Angela Balbo and fiancé Michael Januska of Cleveland, Ohio, daughter, Jane Balbo and husband Aaron Burk of Athens, Ohio, son, Jason Hooper and wife Brittney of Cleveland, daughter, Cari Balbo and husband Michael Maines of Palermo, daughter, Anna Balbo Baldwin and husband Thomas Baldwin of South Portland; grandsons, Sam, Oliver, and namesake George; 16 siblings and stepsiblings, along with their spouses; many cherished nieces, nephews and cousins; his beloved Aunt Dolores; and many others whom he considered family.

There will be a celebration of George’s life on the summer solstice, 2020. His family asks that if you have stories and thoughts of George to share that you please consider emailing them to [email protected] to be read at his memorial and to help his loved ones heal from their loss.