May 9, 1917 - July 13, 2019 Mona Malden died peacefully in the home she lived in for sixty years on July 13, 2019, surrounded by adoring family. She was born Mildred DeLeuw Greenberg on May 9, 1917 in St. Joseph, Missouri. Less than two years later, her father, Edward, died during the influenza epidemic, leaving her mother, Marian, to raise her. Mother and daughter criss-crossed Missouri and Kansas, spending time with various relatives, so that by the time Mona graduated from high school at the age of 16, she had attended thirteen different schools.She taught tap-dancing to younger children when she was 12 (until an aunt called a halt due to the scuffing of the floor), but she really wanted to become an actress. After high school, she attended Chicago's renowned Goodman Theater as one of two scholarship students. The other was a young man named Mladen Sekulovich, soon to change his name to Karl Malden. The Goodman prided itself on its children's theater program, and Mona and Karl appeared in all their productions, with diminutive Mona as Little Red Riding Hood, Heidi, and Jack and the Beanstalk's Mrs. Giant to Karl's Giant. Meanwhile, they fell in love.They both moved to New York to pursue their careers and were married there in 1938. Mona appeared on Broadway (as Mona Graham), but soon chose to give up career in favor of family. Mona and Karl lived in New York for twenty years. There, they had two daughters, Mila and Carla, before moving to Los Angeles. Ultimately, Mona became "Gaga" (the original Lady Gaga) to granddaughters Alison, Emily, and Cami. She sewed costumes, hosted sleepovers, and threw legendary tea parties. Mona and Karl celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2008, six months before Karl died at the age of 97. Mona continued going to the movies, going to the theater, and turning every family dinner into a party, complete with favors.Mona was a magnificent and devoted daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother (Mila, Stella, Charlie, and Thomas), and friend. Being all of those things - and she was the best of all those things -- gave her enormous joy. She never lost her childlike wonder and enthusiasm - for everything from cotton ball clouds to Sees candy. She argued politics, spouted silly malapropisms, and usually got the giggles at the dinner table.. And she never stopped tap dancing… Tiptoe Through the Tulips… with me….
Published in Los Angeles Times from Jul. 16 to Jul. 20, 2019.