Holly Halsted Balthis was like the "Queen Mum" for Rose Queens.
It makes sense. Until last week, she was the oldest surviving Rose
Queen. And for 73 years, Rose Queens looked up to Balthis as their
Balthis died on Friday of natural causes at her home in Laguna
Beach. She was 95.
But until Balthis' last breath, she took pride in her role as an
emissary for the annual Tournament of Roses, her son Frank Balthis
"Being Rose Queen was an integral part of her life," he said.
Holly Halsted Balthis participated in almost all programs
associated with the famed event and encouraged other former Rose
Queens to maintain their relationship with the event, said Nancy
Skinner, a Newport Beach resident who was Rose Queen in 1952.
"She made a point of pulling us and keeping us together," she
said. "She had a great fondness for the Tournament of Roses, and she
was just a wonderful spokesperson for it."
Holly Halsted Balthis encouraged other Rose Queens to relive their
glory days by attending events they were invited to as former queens,
"She was always upbeat and effervescent," she said. "No one ever
saw her as old. She was 95, but she still drove herself to every
party and luncheon. She was a queen mother to all of us."
Holly Halsted Balthis, originally from Los Angeles, moved to
Newport Beach in 1957 with her husband, Frank Balthis, a Los Angeles
County Superior Court judge. The couple lived in Bayshores but moved
to Laguna Beach in 1972.
Holly Halsted Balthis' love affair with the Tournament of Roses
began when she worked a part-time job at its office as a student at
They gave her $10 to buy the material for a dress. She designed
and made it with her mother's help. And for her court, the young Rose
Queen chose a bunch of her high school friends.
"Things have changed quite a bit now," Tournament of Roses
President David Davis said with a laugh.
Now the queens get a wardrobe of designer clothes and attend up to
150 events in the three months leading up to the Rose Parade on New
Year's Day. Incidentally, the dress meant so much to Holly Halsted
Balthis that she wore it on her wedding day.
But being Rose Queen even in those simple days, without the fuss
and the media attention, meant a lot to Holly Halsted Balthis, said
Anne Wortmann, Lido Isle resident and 1976 Rose Queen.
"She was very charismatic," she said. "You always knew when she
was in the room. She took part in everything and took charge."
Holly Halsted Balthis was active and had television interviews
scheduled as recently as two weeks before her death, Frank Balthis
"She enjoyed meeting people and talking to people," he said. "It's
not like she'd talk about herself. But she'd want to find out about
them and what they do."
She also liked to talk to young people, Frank Balthis Jr. said.
"She'd talk to kids on skateboards and skim boards," he said.
"She'd want to know what makes them tick."
An outgoing person who loved to party with people of all ages,
Holly Halsted Balthis always looked her best. She was dressed
impeccably and her demeanor was ever gracious and pleasant.
She loved life, her son said.
"She lived life to the fullest," he said. "It was like she loved
life too much to let go."
A Celebration of Life is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday at the
Laguna Beach United Methodist Church at 21632 Wesley Drive in Laguna
Beach. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials in her
name be made to the Living Desert Reserve at 47/900 Portola Ave.,
Palm Desert, CA 92260; or Friends of the Dana Point Library at 22841
Niguel Road, Dana Point, CA 92629; or the Laguna Beach United
* DEEPA BHARATH is the enterprise and general assignment reporter.
She may be reached at (949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at