Carmelita Pope
1924 - 2019
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Carmelita Pope
April 15, 1924-April 3, 2019
Carmelita Pope, a pioneer in television, Broadway actor, long-time volunteer for the Warhawk Air Museum, and mother to two sons, passed away on April 3 at the age of 94. In an acting career that spanned over sixty years, Carmelita performed in theater, radio, television, and film. In 1947, she played Stella in Tennessee William's "Streetcar Called Desire," opening opposite her childhood friend Marlon Brando. It fulfilled a childhood dream to have her name in lights on Broadway. Soon after, she returned home to Chicago and married H. Charles Ballenger II, a newspaper reporter, and began a career in television.
At a time when Chicago was the hub for the new industry, Carmelita appeared as a panelist on one of the first nationally syndicated game shows, "Down You Go," and its first televised soap opera, "Hawkins Falls." She was a regular as well on the nightly newscasts, performing commercials live in an era before videotape. Dubbed "one of the first ladies of Chicago television," Carmelita went on to host a range of local television shows, appeared on radio dramas, and a range of commercials. In 1961, she became the spokesperson for Pam cooking spray, and for a decade her commercials appeared on national TV, where she became famous for sliding eggs off frying pans.
In the seventies, Carmelita Pope left Chicago to find work in Los Angeles, where she appeared in soap operas, including "Days of Our Lives" and "General Hospital," as well as the first Spiderman TV movie. Her love of animals led her to a position with the Pet Food Institute, and later, the director of the Hollywood office of the American Humane Association, where she monitored the safety of animal action in TV and move productions.
In the late 1980s, she retired to Florida with her second husband. After he died in 1995, Carmelita moved to Boise, Idaho, to be closer to her family. There she began her final encore as a volunteer for the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, coordinating the Veteran's History Project. Carmelita was responsible for helping to organize interviews with hundreds of local veterans about their experiences in war. Among these were her own contribution. At age 21, Carmelita performed with the USO in the European theater in the last months of World War II, where she appeared in "Kiss and Tell" and other productions performed for American troops in Italy.
Throughout her storied career, Carmelita also managed to be a wonderful mom to her two sons, and later, an inspiration to her four grandchildren. Despite the demands of being a professional woman, she always found time to watch a son compete in a swim meet, comfort another through an adolescent heartbreak, and celebrate both of their accomplishments, no matter how small. Though she never encouraged any of them to be actors, two of Carmelita's granddaughters are actors in New York. Everywhere she went, she made friends, and during her last twenty years living in Boise, Carmelita enjoyed a large community of admirers, many of them at Warhawk Air Museum. A glass case commemorating her time in the USO during the Second World War resides there, lovingly curated by her friends.
Carmelita Pope is survived by her two sons, Bruce Ballenger and Howard ("Buzz") Ballenger, as well as her two daughters-in-law, Karen Kelley and Margaret Rinkovsky. Her four grandchildren include Becca Ballenger and Natalie Ballenger, both of whom reside in New York. Julia Ballenger of Boise, and Taylor Ballenger of Los Angeles. There will be two events to honor Carmelita on Monday, April 15. At 10 am, there will be a funeral mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Latah, and at 2 pm there will be a celebration of her life at Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa. In lieu of flowers, the family requests friends make contributions in her name to the Warhawk Air Museum or the Idaho Humane Society.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Idaho Statesman on Apr. 7, 2019.
Funeral Mass
10:00 AM
Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Latah
Celebration of Life
02:00 PM
Warhawk Air Museum
Memories & Condolences
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15 entries
April 1, 2021
I watched her on Chicago TV for many years. I was so excited to hear she had moved to Boise where I live. But by the time I found out she had just recently passed.
David Habben
July 1, 2020
Does anyone know where/if Carmelita was buried or otherwise entombed somewhere that can be visited?
David M. Habben
June 29, 2020
My mother was a Carmelita fan. My mother had her cookbook which was very popular at the time. One day my mother came home with moose meat that her boss gave her following a hunting trip. She didn't know how to prepare it so she called Carmelita. It took a couple of hours but Carmelita called her back and told her how to prepare moose. Carmelita was a domestic goddess before Martha Stewart.
Amy King
April 1, 2020
I grew up in the Chicago area and remember Carmelita when she was on TV back then. I actually had the chance to meet her years ago. I now live in Boise and just learned last year that she also lived in Boise and was an amazing volunteer with the Warhawk Air Museum. I wanted to much to go see her, but sadly she passed away before I had that chance. She was a very special and amazing woman.
David Habben
May 9, 2019
I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Carmelita. I just recently learned that she was living in Boise and a long-time volunteer at the Warhawk Air Museum. I grew up in Chicago and watched her on local TV for many years.
David Habben
April 15, 2019
I worked with Carmelita on the Veterans History Project at the Warhawk for 13 years. I count her as a good friend and colleague. She was a classy and funny lady who will be greatly missed. Rest in peace my dear friend.
Judith Menger
April 13, 2019
So sorry for your loss of your mother.
Sandra Roseburg
April 13, 2019
My name is Pat Reding and I grew up in Chicago, watching Carmelita Pope on TV.
Also watched her dad, Francois'. Her cookbook was quite popular among my mom and her friends. It sounds like she had a wonderful, full and rewarding life. My sympathy to the family.
Pat Reding
April 12, 2019
A great lady, member of the North Shore Yacht Club, tireless and fun contributor who had a sincere empathy for all.
Peg & Pete Koukos
April 10, 2019
So sorry for your families loss. Let us know what we can do.
April 8, 2019
"It's in the Name" - WGN-TV 1958 - L to R: Dr. Robinson (Northwestern U), Art Hellyer, Carmelita Pope
My sympathy to all of Carmelita's family and friends. She was a great lady who my father, Art Hellyer, very much enjoyed working with during the early days of Chicago television. In 1950 when they were both in their mid-20s and getting started in broadcasting they worked together on a live TV show called "Rate Your Mate" on the NBC station in Chicago where they did two-person skits, often improv and ad-libbed, based on suggestions viewers would send in via postcard. There were no stage hands so they did all the set designs, lighting and prop work, too. In 1958 they worked together hosting a game show called "It's in the Name" on WGN-TV in Chicago. Their paths often crossed as both worked at various stations in Chicago including many commercials and auditions. My Dad loved to reminisce and always spoke fondly of working with Carmelita, right up until his passing 7 months ago. He thought she was very talented, a great colleague, had a delightful personality, and was a wonderful friend. Condolences to all of you from the Hellyer family back here in the Midwest.
April 7, 2019
Beautiful obituary ♥♥♥ Carmelita had a spectacular life!

Carmelita taught me so much! I loved working as her Secretary from 1983-1986. She was always so graceful and kind to me and I have not forgotten that.

I will see you on the other side Carmelita, RIP

Catherine Weddle Terrano
Catherine Terrano
April 7, 2019
we have lost a notable member of the Greatest Generation, a gracious lady who was a pleasure to know and converse with. She stood out amongest many of her generation. May You rest in Peace Carmelita, I am proud to have known you.
Robert Austin USAF Ret.
April 5, 2019
Rest in Peace our dear sweet friend, and thank you for blessing our lives with your love & kindness. We will forever hold you in our hearts.
Steve & Carri King
April 5, 2019
RIP Carmelita. You were and always will be a wonderful lady and friend.
Cary O'Dell
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