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Obituary: Miriam Zogby Balutis (1945-2023)

Miriam Zogby Balutis (Age 78)
Memorial service info

Miriam Zogby Balutis was born on August 22, 1945 in Utica, NY, and died on August 22, 2023 at her home in Arlington, VA, enveloped in the warmth, love and care of her family, and secure in the knowledge that the former president’s next arraignment was imminent. She is survived by her devoted partner of many years, Jan Jaworski, and her two beloved children Juliette (Nor) Balutis and Adam Balutis. She is also survived by her sister Sadieann (Robert) Spear; niece Rachel (Robert Palladino) Mazzotta; nephew Christian (Barbara) Mazzotta; cousin Marya (Christopher Healey) Myslinski; and their children. She was preceded in death by her parents, Wadih and Juliette Zogby.

Miriam died of metastatic breast cancer, and it was her clear and strong wish that in memorializing her, we eschew the warrior and battle-centric language that we often see used to define the cancer experience, along with its tacit implication that surviving or dying from cancer is simply a variable driven by the will of a patient. Miriam did not “lose her battle” with cancer; she endured it for seven and a half years, abiding difficult treatments and rare side effects while living her life as well and as fully as possible throughout: traveling extensively with her partner, hosting joyful gatherings at her home, contributing her time and energy to countless campaigns to elect Democrats in Virginia and across the nation, volunteering in her community, growing numerous varieties of heirloom tomatoes in her beautifully self-landscaped backyard, and spending many treasured hours with family and friends. Though she is no longer bound by the physical body that cancer destroyed, she didn’t lose anything – not her perspective, her dignity, her sense of humor, her quick wit, her compassion for others, her moral clarity, her intolerance for injustice, her brilliant mind, her wide-ranging wisdom, her commitment to community, or her love of life’s simple joys. Her loss is solely ours: the tremendous, seismic loss of an indomitable and loving mother, partner, friend and neighbor.

Miriam grew up in Utica, NY and moved to Arlington in 1977 after earning a Bachelor’s Degree from Utica College and a Master’s Degree from SUNY Buffalo. She spent much of her career as a dedicated civil servant at the United States Census Bureau, where she worked for more than 25 years, joining in 1985 and retiring in 2011. She worked on three Censuses (1990, 2000, and 2010), and the Commerce Department recognized her with its Bronze Medal Award in 2001 for her outstanding contributions to the successful completion and evaluation of the 2000 Census. She developed instructional and training materials that translated complex survey designs into understandable form for thousands of newly hired temporary interviewers, and assumed additional management roles in the later Censuses. The results of these surveys were critically important to understanding how accurately and completely the Census was taken. She was highly regarded, liked and respected by her colleagues and her staff for her expertise, insight, craft, and common sense, leavened with a sense of humor and a calm and steady demeanor.

In addition to her professional commitment to public service, Miriam was passionate about civic participation and community engagement in her personal life. She served for many years as an Arlington County Democratic Party precinct captain, worked the polls in the wee hours of the morning nearly every election, developed and administered the volunteer training program for Arlington Neighborhood Villages, and volunteered for Matthew 25, a social justice ministry distributing clothing and household goods to those in need.

Miriam loved the outdoors, walking and hiking. She delighted in traveling and experiencing new places in her retirement, and especially adored the U.S. National Parks, of which she hiked many with her partner Jan on their carefully planned but adventure-filled trips. When she was closer to home, she took great pleasure in tackling increasingly challenging DIY projects, cultivating her backyard garden, and enjoying her “framily” (friends/family). In her many relationships with others, she held a rare balance of complexity without complication, humor without hostility, presence without pressure, helping without hovering, caring without coddling, and challenging you without trying to change you. She could engage you in spirited conversation or debate, or sit with you in companionable silence – wherever you were, Miriam met you there. She was a thoughtful, sensitive listener, deeply empathetic with a wry wit, and many sought out her sage, judgment-free counsel and the quiet, loving presence that made anywhere she was feel like home.

A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, September 9 at 12:00pm at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 2700 South 19th Street, Arlington, VA 22204, followed by a gathering of family, friends and neighbors in Miriam’s backyard, where she loved to host and entertain.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to METAvivor ( to fund rigorously peer-reviewed research for treating and curing metastatic breast cancer, which causes 97-99% of all breast cancer deaths while receiving only 2-5% of breast cancer research funding; or to World Central Kitchen ( to provide fresh meals for communities in need across the globe. You may also honor Miriam in your everyday lives by, in her own words, taking the time to “consider the man-made arrangements that influence our world and leave so many in positions of poverty and powerlessness, question ourselves about what we are doing to change these arrangements, and feel more than a little uncomfortable if the answer is ‘nothing.’”

Submitted by Murphy Funeral Home Arlington

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