CHRISTINE BALABUZKO COMBS
August 7, 1962 to July 31, 2018
Editor’s Note: Christine passed away July 31, 2018 after bravely fighting cancer for three years. She was just 56. Born August 7, 1962 in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, she graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.S in Engineering Physics, and from Loyola Marymount University with an MBA. After hiring on at Hughes Aircraft Company, she had a long career in South Bay aerospace, including infra-red airborne navigation, satellite technology, and unmanned aircraft at Hughes, Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman. In the course of her work, she got to experience a catapult launch off the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near San Diego in 2014. Chris leaves her husband, Gary, Daisy the cat, and a very old Plecostomus (fish). Please make a donation to South Bay Wildlife Rehab www.sbwr.org/birds, She Rocks KXLU at kxlu.com, or the USO. Funeral arrangements made by White & Day Mortuaries.
Gary Combs presented Christine’s eulogy at Palos Verdes Golf Club on Saturday, November 17, 2018.
By Gary Combs
“I stayed good at planning trips”
I met Chris at Hughes Aircraft around 1985. She was engaged at the time, but she broke up with her fiancé shortly after. She told me it was because he told her that her career didn’t matter. Almost as importantly, her cat didn’t like him. Her cat liked me, though. Over the Labor Day weekend in 1986, I planned a trip to Monterey Bay. The aquarium had just opened, so I booked a hotel, got tickets to the aquarium, and looked up other things for us to do while there. This was all before the Internet, so I used the old Auto Club tour book. Chris later told me that the fact that I had planned the trip, and that all she had to do was to go along, really impressed her. She said that was when she started to fall in love with me. So, I made darn sure that I stayed good at planning trips.
“We did a good amount of international travel”
Chris was always growing and improving. As part of her MBA at Loyola Marymount, she took a Comparative Management Study course on the automotive industry, which included visiting car manufacturers in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. She invited me to go along, and I am incredibly glad I did. After that, we did a good amount of international travel, including visiting her uncles, aunts, and cousins in England, Scotland, and New Zealand. Chris was a first-generation American. Her father was born in 1912 in Poland and was a Polish cavalryman when Germany invaded Poland to start World War II. After escaping to England, he continued fighting and eventually met and married Chris’ mom and started their family. Before her dad passed away, he told me that I made his daughter happy, so I was determined to keep doing that.
Chris had an understanding and appreciation of different points of view and artistic expression. For example, her two favorite movies were Casablanca and Kick-Ass. You undoubtedly know Casablanca, but Kick-Ass is about an ordinary teenager who decides to reinvent himself as a Superhero despite a total lack of special powers. He teams up with an 11-year-old, ruthless vigilante, Hit Girl.
“Always improving herself and doing and learning new things”
Chris was inspirational to me because she was always improving herself and doing and learning new things. I always felt like I had to keep up with her because I wanted to make sure she would continue to find me interesting. I learned a lot of art history and art appreciation from her. Our last international trip was to Arnhem in the Netherlands to see the second largest collection of Van Gogh paintings, including Café Terrace at Night, one of our favorites. Here at home, we had memberships to Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Huntington Library, and we enjoyed visiting just about all the museums and gardens in the area.
Chris was also a good problem solver. We bought a new Corvette about 15 years ago, and I was driving it rather recklessly one day and got a ticket. Chris could have said we needed to sell the car, but she suggested we take it to track so I could get recklessness out of my system.
Toward the end of her life, Chris developed a great friendship with Cindy Glackin. Cindy is a member of the Empty Saddle Club, a private equestrian club in Rolling Hills Estates, and Chris had always loved horses. When she stopped working due to cancer, Cindy arranged for Chris to have access to the club, so she could help Cindy with her horses. At the time, one of the side effects of my wife’s chemotherapy was hand-and-foot syndrome, which is a kind of neuropathy that makes your hands and feet tingle all the time, as if they are asleep. Once Chris started working with the horses, the side effect almost completely disappeared. It really improved her life and renewed her sense of joy. I’m so grateful that Chris had Cindy and her horses to cheer her up.
A singular thought process
My wife had a singular thought process. She enjoyed science, art, and nature in the same way she relished understanding how they worked and how they were put together. In the same vein, she liked to view plants and animals in nature because they manifest a mechanism, a system, and an aesthetic. She pointed out to me that Van Gogh’s landscapes had vortexes in the sky and in the trees, so she believed he could see the wind.
An artist she admired later in her life was Alexander Calder. He was a mechanical engineer who created kinetic art. He designed connected and balanced structures intended to move with the slightest breeze. Calder’s art inspired Chris to start making jewelry, particularly dangling earrings. The endeavor was also therapeutic because it gave her a way to exercise her hands and fingers and improve her concentration. There is a condition called chemo brain that some people acquire after they have been on chemo for a while. It affects short term memory and concentration, and jewelry making helped ease that for her.
Every year around her birthday, Chris did a guest DJ set on air at the KXLU station at Loyola Marymount for the She Rocks radio show. The show features music made by females, and Chris picked out an hours’ worth of songs, many of which we will be playing tonight.
I would like to end my time with a Polish toast called Sto Lat, which means a hundred years. It’s a toast that you would normally offer at a birthday or a wedding, but this is a celebration as well. Chris would wish each of you a hundred years of good health and good luck. Sto Lat.