On any given day, you probably won’t find Maria Bales in her Kenwood apartment. The self-described “Hungarian Minnesotan and world traveler” makes a point to get out every day. Among her activities are her daily, early morning walk around Lake of the Isles, working out at the Uptown Y, and going to the Guthrie, the Jungle, Orchestra Hall, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Theatre Latte Da… you get the idea.
Maria was born in Keszthely, Hungary. She has vivid memories of World War II. After the Russian Army occupied Hungary in 1945, Maria was at first enthusiastic about the possibility of social justice and economic equality touted by the Russians but became disenchanted in 1948 when the communist party put a dictatorship in place. After the Hungarian Revolution broke out in October 1956 Maria fled Hungary with a friend, first walking to Austria, then traveling to Germany, and then on to New York.
After her arrival in the United States at age 20, Maria worked hard to learn English and soon after arrival she received a scholarship to Hobart, William Smith College in Geneva, New York. She met and married Kent Bales in 1958 and they moved to Menlo Park, California where Kent taught at a private boy’s school. Maria continued her studies, resulting in a BA in Social Science and an MA in History. When Kent enrolled in the PhD program at the University of California, they moved to Berkeley where Maria taught in Berkeley public schools.
Kent then got a position at the University of Minnesota in the Department of English and the couple moved to Minneapolis in 1967, settling into their home on 27th and Irving with their children Tom and Elizabeth. The neighborhood was turning over at the time, and people of their generation were moving in. Their Irving home served as a hub for gatherings. Maria and Kent were actively involved in DFL politics, for Eugene McCarthy’s presidency and against the Vietnam War. Kent was twice chair of the Department of English at the U which also led to a lot of entertaining. One of her friends , Martha Geffen, won the contract as manager of the prestigious Gallery 8 Restaurant at the Walker Art Center, and later at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts restaurant. Maria, not wanting the commitment and responsibility signed on to work for her as an employee. Her main job was to bake French bread, but she also cooked, baked desserts, and helped with catering, as needed. Maria worked for Martha for about 15 years in the 1980s and 1990s. She enjoyed the flexibility of the job, which allowed her to join Kent on sabbaticals and then return to her baking and cooking, adding to the delicious menu.
Maria and Kent were great travelers and went all over Europe and the United States, including yearly visits to Hungary to visit Maria’s family. Their adventures include canoeing on the Zambezi River, climbing Kilimanjaro, walking across England, and biking 120 miles around Lake Balaton, Maria’s hometown lake. In 1996 at age 60, she biked from Hanoi to Saigon. When Kent died in 2012 Maria was heartbroken. But she continued to travel, and the only thing that stopped her was the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that travel is safer, Maria has resumed her adventures, and has just returned from a tour of the British Isles.
After Kent died, Maria stayed in their home until 2019 when she moved down the street to The Kenwood Retirement Community. Maria is thankful she had already established her new home at The Kenwood before the pandemic. She loves her apartment with its view of Loring Park and downtown and appreciates being able to walk down the hall and spend time with her new-found friends. She enjoys the many opportunities for staying active at The Kenwood, including Great Courses, live music, and films.
Maria’s skills at cooking often are in evidence at The Kenwood where tempting aromas waft out her door. Although Maria loves to cook for herself in her Kenwood apartment, she also enjoys her free daily breakfast in the dining room with friends which she calls a “significant part of the day.” She also relishes the yummy appetizers served at Kenwood Happy Hours.
Maria is just one of the many residents at The Kenwood who have fascinating back stories. You may meet her one day, walking around Lake of the Isles. But you will have to get up early.
About The Kenwood Senior Living
The Kenwood Senior Living is a rental retirement community which provides independent living and assisted living apartments and a full schedule of activities and services. Furnished apartments are also available for a short-term stay – a weekend, a week, a month or longer.
For more information call 612-374-8100.