Inger (Bess) Hildegard Balchen Urbahn (Engelbretsen) (1921 - 2011)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Oslo, Norge
Death: Died in ME, USA
Managed by: Even Emil Haugereid
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About Inger (Bess) Hildegard Balchen Urbahn (Engelbretsen)

- Inger "Bess" Urbahn, 90, passed away July 5, 2011, at Marshall Health Care, Machias. She was born Feb. 12, 1921, in Oslo, Norway, the daughter of Ingvald and Hildegard (Jager) Engelbrethsen. Bess grew up in Oslo, Norway the youngest of five sisters. During five years of Nazi occupation she played an active role in the resistance movement, serving as a courier and bringing supplies to partisan forces operating from the forests outside Oslo, Norway. After the war she worked as an editor and newspaper reporter. It was in the latter role she met her first husband, the late Col. Bernt Balchen, U.S. Air Force. In the years after the war, they moved according to Bernt's military assignments, living in Norway, Alaska, Virginia and New Foundland. Upon Bernt's retirement from the Air Force, they settled in Chappaqua, N.Y., where their son Lauritz was born. The marriage ended in divorce in the mid-1960s, and Bess pursued a career in journalism, initially finding employment at Fordham University on the editorial staff of the Fordham Journal. Seeking new horizons, she and her son moved to the Washington, D.C., area where she was employed by the American Institute of Architects as associate editor of the AIA Journal. One of the highlights of her job was hosting a group of Soviet architects in the early days of "glasnost" on a nationwide tour of the U.S., which included the nearly completed World Trade Center. While employed there she met her second husband, the architect, Max O. Urbahn, president of AIA and of his own internationally known firm in New York, Max O. Urbahn Associates. In the course of Max's work, they traveled extensively to destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Upon the sale of the New York firm, they decided to "slow down" a bit and opened a firm in Stonington, Conn., the Office of Max O. Urbahn Architects, which Bess managed. Upon Max's sudden death in 1995, Bess pulled up roots and moved to Camden to be closer to her son and his family, settling on Barnestown Road. At the time of Max's passing, the only continent she hadn't traveled to was the Antarctic, and at age 76 she conquered that milestone. She continued to travel abroad yearly until she was in her late 80s. Bess forged many strong friendships while living in Camden, and avidly pursued her love of writing and collecting antiquarian books. She was a volunteer at Owls Head Transportation Museum, president of Maine Media Women, and enjoyed knitting and writing short stories with her friends. In addition to her many human friends, Bess loved animals of all kinds, befriending countless dogs and cats, as well as a family of crows who showed up daily at her house for breakfast. In 2010 failing health forced her to sell her beloved home, whereupon she moved to Penobscot Shores, Belfast, residing there until recently. She is survived by her son, Lauritz "Larry" Balchen and wife, Betsy, and son, Erik, of Jonesport; sister, Henny Natvig of Oslo, Norway; stepsons, Bernt Balchen Jr. and wife, Martha, of Oslo, Norway, Eric Urbahn and wife, Sabine, of Cushing, Trey Urbahn and wife, Jennifer, of New Canaan, Conn., and John Urbahn and wife, Deyanne, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and many family members in Norway and England. Bess was especially close to her niece, Helen Sigvartson of Oslo, Norway. She was predeceased by her husband, Max; and her sisters, Jo Thurmann-Andersen, Annie Heum and Cecil Tonnessen. The family extends its deepest gratitude to the staff at Marshall Health Care, whose wonderful and loving care allowed Bess to live the final days of her life with comfort and dignity. Due to the distance friends and family would have to travel, a gathering to celebrate her life will be held later this summer at a date to be announced. Donations in her memory may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project at www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Published in Bangor Daily News on July 9, 2011

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