Maria Teresa Caya de Balmaseda y de Echeverria from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, died on March 26, 2018. She was a native of San Sebastian, Spain, and grew up in Madrid and San Sebastian, the daughter of the late Excellency and Most Illustrious Cesar de Balmaseda y d’Ortega and the late Excellency and Most Illustrious Caya de Echeverria y de Alcayaga de Balmaseda. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Arthur W. Milam, her son, Steve de Balmaseda Champion, and her step-son, Terence Y. Milam. She was also preceded in death by seven brothers and four sisters, all from Madrid, Spain.
She is survived by her two sons, George Champion III (Jill) of La Jolla, California, and Robert Cesar de Balmaseda Champion (Lenka) of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; and two step-children, Robin A. Milam (Shelby) of Lake Oswego, Oregon, and Melissa M. Ekblom of Washington, D.C.; seven grandchildren, George D. Champion and Arthur E. Champion of La Jolla, California, Robert M. Champion of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Elizabeth (Alex) Desjardins of New York, Alexandra (Jordan) Angel of Los Angeles, Christine (Blake Vogel) Milam of Oakland, California, and William Milam of Boulder, Colorado; five great grandchildren, 23 nephews and nieces and several great-grandnephews and nieces from Madrid, Spain.
She attended the Convent of the Assumption in San Sebastian, Madrid and Paris, and received her Baccalaureate from Institute San Isidro in Madrid, and special studies in European history and art at the La Universite’ Libre de La Sorbonne in Paris. She traveled extensively in all of Europe, Russia, North Africa and South America, and had a great curiosity of the culture and history of other countries. In 1993, His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain bestowed on her the Medal of “Dama del Merito Civil.” She was responsible for bringing the Columbus Caravels, “La Santa Maria, La Pinta and La Niña,” to St. Augustine through her longtime acquaintances with the Spanish royal family and the Spanish ambassador, His Excellency Jaime de Ojeda. She was vice chair (1988 to 1993) and chairman (1989-1992) of the International Committee of the Columbus Hemispheric Florida State Commission; from 1989 to 1993, she was vice chairman for Spanish Affairs of the St. Augustine/St. Johns County Columbus Commission; she was also a trustee and served as secretary/treasurer of the Historical St. Augustine Preservation Board in 1989. She authored several books, which she donated to several universities, libraries and schools. She also wrote several articles promoting the Spanish heritage, the founding of St. Augustine and Spain’s contributions to the United States. She was a member of the Commission, El Presidio de San Augustine from 1998 through December 2000, and her contributions in promoting the Spanish heritage and founding of St. Augustine were recognized by the City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County.
She was a member of, and active in, Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church and served on the council of the church from 1988 to 2010, wherein she resigned due to failing health.
At the request of the Consul General of Spain in 1990, she founded and was president of the Florida Order of Granaderos and Damas de Galvez and founded the St. Augustine/Jacksonville chapters. She was Damas President of the Jacksonville Chapter until 2005 and continued to work very hard on the educational committee, which sponsors a scholarship at the University of North Florida.
She was chairman of United Fund of Ponte Vedra and St. Augustine area from 1964 to 1966.
She was a trustee of the Board of Directors of the Museum of Science and History from 1982 to 1985. She was also one of the founding members of the Women’s Board of the Jacksonville Wolfson Children’s Hospital in 1976 and was also on the Women’s Board of the Jacksonville Art Museum.
Since the 1960s, she was on the board of the Jacksonville Symphony Guild and was vice president and coordinator of the Symphony Association activities from 1968 to 1987. She was a volunteer of Beaches Hospital Auxiliary from 1972 to 1978 and was on the Cummer Gallery Counsul from 1983 to 1987. She was on the board of trustees and co-founder of the Ponte Vedra Beaches Cancer Unit, and served as treasurer in 1987, vice president in 1988 and on the executive committee until 1998. She was co-founder of BRASS, Ponte Vedra Beach.
She was a member (2002-2008) of the Modern Art Council of MOCA-Jacksonville, a member (1999-present) of the Toqueville Society (United Fund) and a member (1998-present) of the Ponce de Leon Society. She was also a member of the “De Paul” Society of St. Vincent’s Hospital. She was also a member of the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, The Lodge & Club and the River Club.
In 1992 and 1994, she received state and national awards from the Daughters of the American Revolution for best speech and program of the Quincentennial Year. She was nominated by the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council as one of the Women of Distinction in 2009, honoring her accomplishments in community service.
A visitation was held on Monday, April 2, 2018 at Hardage-Giddens Oaklawn Chapel. A Mass of Christian Burial was held at Our Lady Star of the Sea, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, with Father David officiating on April 3, 2018. The family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, a contribution be made to the Steven de Balmaseda Champion Memorial Fund:
2115 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20007
Episcopal High School
4455 Atlantic Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32207
School Year Abroad
Andover, MA 01810
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