October 9, 2004 by

Irene Bale


Categories: Extraordinary People

For Irene Bale, life was literally a three-ring circus.
The London-born vaudeville dancer and acrobat married Col. Trevor Bale, a former tiger trainer and ringmaster with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. For the majority of her life, she worked as an animal trainer, flew through the air on the trapeze and performed the ”iron jaw,” an aerial stunt that involved hanging from a leather and metal apparatus by her teeth.
The Bale family’s circus roots go back 350 years, and continue to this day. Two of Irene’s daughters, Gloria and Bonnie, currently perform a horse act with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus; her daughter Dawnita stepped out of the spotlight a few years ago to care for Bale during the final years of her life. Bale’s son, Elvin, was paralyzed from the waist down in 1987 while performing a human cannonball act. He now works as director and vice president of operations at the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus. In 2003, the Bales were inducted into the Circus Ring of Fame.
Bale died on Sept. 2 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 87.

16 Responses to Irene Bale

  1. Lisa Swaine

    I would like to pass on my deepest sympathy to the Bale family on the recent loss of Irene who is in actual fact my great auntie.The last time i saw her was about 18 years ago when i was 12 and she visited London to see her family(my mother Angela irene parsons and irenes late brother William Elvin parsons)I would loved to have visited Irene and her family and seen them perform in the circus but unfortunately never got the chance,i am so proud of the acheivments that Irene made in her colourfull lifetime and i send my regrets to her family at this sad time.a toast to my beautiful auntie Rene,xxxx

  2. lisa bale-hekter

    I will truly miss my grandmother. I will never forget everything she taught me. I am so blessed to have had her in my life and know that she will forever be with all of us!!! She was an execptional person and a treasure.

  3. James Watson ( grandson kenny parsons)

    I will always miss my favourite auntie Irene and uncle Tommy dearly. I have watched they’re carears since they arived in USA from 1953 until my auntie passed away. I had the honor of meeting the family on tuesday 21st of December 04 and met my cousins Gloria and Nita of whom I have always kept in contact with. I am very proud to have had the pleasure of seeing my aunt Rene performing all over the world since 1958. The world will now suffer a vacuum that will never be filled since her passing. love always your nephew Kenny Parsons your neices Mable, Angie, Maggie and Della Parsons. My Daugters Mandy and Yvette. My Grandsons James, Oliver and Aiden you will always be in our thoughts.

  4. Mitchell Swaine

    I would like to pass on my sympathy to the Bale family for the loss of a true performer and the mother of the greatest daredevil of all time, not to mention her wonderfully skilled daughters. If i had not had the pleasure of meeting my Great Aunt Irene when I was ten years old i may not have had the fascination for the circus and for my great cousin Elvin’s amazing stunts, so big respect and all my love goes out to the greatest performers the world has even seen. Rest in peace Irene and Trevor.

  5. Marty Garrison

    I am terribly heartbroken to hear of the passing of my friend Mrs. Irene Bale. I have been a family friend of the Bale’s for over 30+ years and consider myself to be very close to Nita, Bonnie, and Gloria, and Lisa, and of course Mrs. Bale. We have become separated by miles however, these past 10 years. Mrs. Bale has always treated me like a family member. I used to stop by and check on her daily when the girl’s were on the road and she was always doing some huge project such as sewing beautiful costumes, painting the house or gardening. There was no task too big for Mrs. Bale to take on and she thrived on it. We spent hours and hours just talking and chatting. I loved her stories of the “old days” when she spoke to me of her performances and she used to dance a few steps for me. Mrs. Bale was a great lady and I will never forget her.
    I know she is safe and warm in God’s loving arms.
    To the family, if you read this, please accept my most deepest sympathy and I miss you all so very much every single day. Love always, Marty.

  6. Irene angela parsons

    i am the neice of the late irene bale. my father william elvin parsons. who sadly passed away in 1987. we last saw irene when we visited irenes sisster madge at her home in gypsy hill, west norwood. we had dinner together there, i hope one day to meet up with irene’s daughters and elvin my cousins. sign off now with sypathy, from myself and my children.

  7. Mike Parsons

    My branch of the family, take this opportunity to offer our belated sympathy to our American cousins and the entire Bale family following the very sad passing of, my auntie, Irene Bail, a genuine trooper of the old school.
    Although I have little first hand knowledge of my aunt, uncle and cousins, since my earliest schooldays I have always bragged of my connection to one of the greatest circus families of all time. It has also given me great pleasure over the years to read about the fantastic exploits and achievements of the Bale

  8. Carmella Brown

    i would like to say that although i have had little knowledge of the bale family circus un till recently. by delving into my family history i am honnoured to be a part of such a charasmatic family and am saddened at the news of the death of a member who clearly meant so much to so many people. the world will be a blander place without someone so enigmatic. it is down to the rest of us to make sure the people who have spiced up the lives of so many live on through our memories.
    with sympathy and hope for the future. Carmella Brown grandaughter of Carmello Bale

  9. Nicola Haxby

    I too offer my sympathy to Irene’s family. I wish i had met you, i have so many questions left unanswered about my family. We (my brothers and sister and our children) are enormously proud of our circus heritage and salute the courage and daring of our forebears. With respect, Nicola (nee Bale) daughter of Carmello Bale, grand-daughter of George Bale of the Royal Zanetto Troupe.

  10. Aidan Bolin (Yvette parsons son)

    I have heard very little of the bale family.But i do have to say that my mother has told me that irene was the most amazing woman and she had the kindest heart.I am also writing to thank her for who she has entertained in the barnhan circus and how happy she has made lots of people such as the royal queen of england.if you are reading this I hope your thinking the same thing.

  11. laura shrewsbury

    I just did a search on the Bale family, trying to reconnect with my old pal Lisa Bale, and discovered Irene’s Tribute. I am so sorry to hear of her death! Lisa Bale, Irene’s granddaughter, was my very best friend growing up.
    It was a fascinating and joyful experience, going over to Lisa’s house, spending time with her nannie “Renie”, who was my first costume inspiration. She was the first adult, outside my family, to listen and encourage my creativity in sewing. She would give me bags filed with sparkly scraps of fabric, sequins and rhinestones left over from the lovely costumes she’d make. I would make my very first gaments, my doll’s dresses, out of those scraps! I’m now at 37, a costume designer, and I live and work in NYC.
    Fondest memories of my childhood include Renie’s wonderful, husky London voice, her platinum up-do, great tan and high heels, smoke curling out of her cigarette, chatting in the Bale’s magical living room with my mum, while Lisa and I played, running around the house or riding her horse Star King. Renie and her daughthers, Lisa’s beautiful mother and aunts, Gloria, Nita and Bonnie, influenced my life-long love of glamour.
    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Renie was a rare jewel among women, and I shall always remember her with love, admiration, respect and great gratitude.

  12. Debra Denham

    I’m saddened to hear that my lovely Aunt Renie passed. I only met her and the family once in Ft.Worth, Tx. when I was very young (I’m Elsie Jonsson’s daughter. She is Edvard’s daughter) but I always remembered all their kindness. Mother will be sad to hear about the loss.

  13. Annette Simpson nee Bale

    I am sorry to hear of your loss even after all this time it still can be painful. I am the Grand daughter of William “Pip” Bale part of the Royal Zannettos.
    I am just reasontly learning what a fantastic talanted family the Bales are past and presant. i am so privileaged to be apart of it.

  14. Annette Bale

    I was searching the Net for my grandad William “Pip” a Royal Zannetto and found all these wonderful tributes to a special lady. I am sorry for your loss

  15. john (junior) robertson

    My Dearest auntie Rene, who was the “Colour”in an otherwise Black & White world,
    Larger than life,full of joy, with a wicked sense of humour,and a smile that went on for ever.
    The world can ill afford her passing…
    always in my heart

  16. Kathy Davis Bishop

    I have not been in contact with the Bale family in over thirty years. I met and worked with them on the Royal Lippizan Stallion Show in the early seventies. Mrs. Bale was a “stand in mother” for me when we were on the road and she and her girls introduced me to Red Rose Tea. I loved them all, even the Colonel, who lent me a horse to ride in the Quadrille. I remember Bonnie singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” on the ferry ride to Victoria Island. I am saddened to hear of Mrs. Bale’s passing and can sympathize with Nita for my mother also suffered with Alzheimer’s the last years of her life. I hope Nita, Bonnie, Gloria and Elvin and their children and grandchildren are thriving and happy. God bless to you.
    Sincerely, Kathy Bishop=California

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