PORTLAND – A daughter of Irish immigrants, Anne E. Balzano gave back to the city where her parents chose to raise their family.

She remained in Portland her entire life, helping to establish a soup kitchen, serving as a warden during elections and instilling joy into her grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s holidays by creating a character that will live on in their hearts.

Mrs. Balzano, a longtime resident of Portland’s Munjoy Hill, died Thursday at the age of 90.

“We have lost the Matriarch of the Clan from this earth, but will have the generosity of her spirit and strength of her good and kind heart with our family and community for the generations,” her family wrote in Mrs. Balzano’s obituary.

Mrs. Balzano’s parents, Michael Kane and Marry Mannion, immigrated to Portland from Roundstone, Ireland, around 1917, said her daughter Anne Rand of Portland.

Kane, a longshoreman, met, fell in love with and married Mannion. They had eight children, including Mrs. Balzano, who was born on Fore Street in the Munjoy South neighborhood.

Mrs. Balzano attended Cathedral School and graduated from Cathedral High School (later torn down and replaced by Catherine McAuley High School).

After graduation, she got a job at a fish factory on Portland’s waterfront. It wasn’t until years later that Rand recalls meeting her mother’s co-workers.

“They used to call her ‘Miss Portland.’ She was so pretty,” Rand said.

She married a deep-sea fisherman named Joe Balzano, and they lived at Waterville and Monument streets on Munjoy Hill for more than 60 years. The couple raised six children.

Her husband died in 2007.

One of her favorite trips was returning to her parents’ hometown in Ireland. She went back there last year with Rand.

Mrs. Balzano liked to stay at the family cottage, which had been restored by relatives. It overlooks the ocean.

“When she went, she’d have an entire village waiting for her,” Rand said.

She enjoyed pulling pints of beer at the local pub, visiting the church where her parents were baptized and sightseeing.

A longtime, devoted communicant of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Mrs. Balzano and Coleman Walsh organized the St. Vincent de Paul Society Soup Kitchen in downtown Portland.

She volunteered at the soup kitchen for more than 40 years.

“My mother loved working there, helping people who were less fortunate than herself,” Rand said.

Mrs. Balzano also was an election warden on Munjoy Hill for many years and served on the board of directors for the Catherine Morrill Day Nursery.

She voted in the 2011 city school budget validation election. “My mother never missed an election,” Rand said.

Mrs. Balzano had 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She created the character of “Elmer the Elf” — a creature who came in the middle of the night and left presents under the pillows of children who behaved well between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

She even painted a picture of Elmer for her grandchildren.

“My mother was the only person who has ever seen Elmer,” Rand explained.

“One day, all the grandchildren lined up and kissed (the painting) of Elmer,” Rand recalled.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated today at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Cumberland Avenue. The family is asking that donations be made in her memory to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, 307 Congress St., Portland 04101.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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