That’s the word that comes to mind when people talk about Maxine Kronick, the irrepressible doyenne of Palm Coast’s arts and theater scenes, which she did plenty to foster, if more from the wings than in the limelight. Kronick died at her home in Flagler Beach sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning. She was three weeks short of her 80th birthday. She died, unsurprisingly, on her terms, apparently of a stroke: no hassles, no nursing homes, no lingering. As her friend of long date, John Sbordone, the theater director and producer, put it: “She would have hated hanging on.”
Kronick was fierce about acting and actors, fierce about the theater she loved and the children’s theater she founded in Palm Coast, fierce about the arts and artists she championed, fierce about the Israel she loved and where she lived for a few years—as fierce a secularist as she was, and she was that, she was also a proud Jew—and she was fiercely proud of her children and loyal to her friends, and even, at times, to the odd enemy: she debated fiercely, she relished a confrontation, she did not back down, and she liked a forum.
“As a former resident of Flint, Michigan, an active participant during the civil rights movement and an assistant to the first minority mayor, I am deeply saddened reliving these tragic times,” Kronick wrote in July in one of her innumerable and revealing letters to the editor in the News-Journal over the years, what would prove to be her next-to-last letter. She was decrying assault weapons and the latest mass shootings. And she would make her point quickly, sharply and with her usual wit: “When I lived in Israel a number of years ago, the style of gun used in these shootings was only in the hands of the army. There is no place for these rifles in the hands of everyday citizens. It’s my hope that the NRA will look at its policy on guns and review the horrendous killings we’ve had and re-evaluate its position on assault-style weapons. I don’t care about the caliber of the gun, the make of the gun, the size of it — there needs to be a stop to this. It’s too easy to get one of these weapons. If you want to hunt, then go to hunting lodges. But stop hunting people on the street.”
Her last letter, a hat tip to Gary Libby of Volusia County’s Museum of Arts and Sciences, included the motto she would repeat most of her life: that children in the arts are “born to be stars.” To that end, she had founded Theateriffic, a theater company for latchkey and poor children in Flagler County.
“We believe music, dance, improv and creative expression are vital to a child’s development,” Kronick had written about her organization in 1996. “We discovered two shining stars amidst the darkness and will find the financial wherewithal so they may continue in our program which will, we hope, make a significant difference in their lives,” she continued. “As a nonprofit company, whose purpose is to enhance the humanism in children through the performing arts, we attempt to make a difference in the lives of those who otherwise would have no opportunity.”
As Kronick got older and Theateriffic waned, she continued to be involved in local theater , most notably, and until recently, at Buddy Taylor Middle School, with theater and dance teacher Ann Paris, while continuing to support Sbordone’s City Repertory Theatre, now in its sixth year. (The theater plans its own celebration of Kronick.)
“As a brilliant, large personality and somebody you see people gravitate around, she was that person,” Sbordone, Kronick’s equal in potential loudness, said. “They’re to be cherished, those people.”
Monday evening dozens of friends and family, including her four children—Brian, Scott (in from China, where he lives and works as a PR executive), Erin and Dana—gathered at The Net By George on A1A in Flagler Beach to celebrate Kronick’s life and talk about the way her eight decades touched lives, all of them part of what she also did best: she coordinated special events.
“We became fast friends being both involved in the theater,” Sbordone said, “and we’d argue incessantly, because she was a musical nut, she loved the musicals, and I’d fight her about that, just fun fighting of course, over straight drama in music, all the frivolity in music when there are great ideas that have to come out. She would have loved the show we’re doing now, ‘Next to Normal.’ It combines both so beautifully, the drama and extraordinary music. I will always remember Maxine because she championed kids incredibly. Her favorite expression was ‘born to be a star.’”
And of course, there was that fierceness. “She was a fierce, fierce advocate for the arts and for kids,” Sbordone continued. “Her standards were high. She had extraordinary standards. She really championed the work that Diane and I did.” Diane Ellertsen, the artistic director at City Rep Theatre. “If an art group came up and it had quality, she was there, and if she couldn’t help financially, she volunteered.”
Leigh Ann Singleton considers herself Kronick’s best friend: the two go back a few decades to the days of Theaterrific in Palm Coast, though Singleton has since moved to Asheville, N. C. But their collaborations continued, most recently through the children’s book Kronick wrote, “A Grandmother’s Wish,” for which Singleton provided the music (she sings on the accompanying DVD), while her companion, David Lawter created the animation out of children’s drawings Kronick had collected for it.
Singleton spoke of the creative team she and Kronick represented after first meeting and immediately clicking in Ormond Beach in the late 1980s, soon after Kronick had moved from Tel Aviv—another beach town—to Flagler Beach. Kronick put her energy into summer camps, afterschool programs, musical theaters, and throughout maintained “her extreme optimism,” Singleton said, “her love for the arts, her love for children, people, her love for humanity. She was my best friend. We were soul mates.” They shared a birthday, too: February 5. Singleton was in Flagler Beach because she was supposed to be visiting with Kronick the very day of the gathering at The Net.
Lawter got to know Kronick through the creative hours, days and years it took to turn children’s drawings into four or five minutes of animation for her book. “She was so amazed,” Lawter said, remembering what Kronick would tell him of his work: “’I don’t know how you do what you do but I love what you do. I don’t want to hear how you did it, because I don’t understand. But I love it.’”
Jane Mealy, who chairs the Flagler Beach City Commission, had also been a long-time friend, and had seen Kronick as a bridge between her non-arts world and the arts world Mealy appreciates. Kronick, after all, had encouraged Mealy to run for office the first time. And there was the Jewish thing: “She and I and Phyllis and some other lady were four Jews in Flagler Beach,” Mealy said, referring to the late Phyllis Carmel. “We would share high holidays together. I always admired her straight-forwardness. She wouldn’t let anybody do anything bad or nasty to her. She’d always stand up for herself.” That fierceness made her stand out: “She was just very different from most people that I know, in a good way.”
She’d been unsettled by guns, attacks on civil rights or on Jews (she’d once written a caustic letter to the editor, excoriating Southern Baptists for trying to convert Jews: “I am sure that within Southern Baptist congregations nationwide, some members are victims of abuse or suffering from AIDS, debilitating diseases, alcoholism and other maladies,” she’d written. “Perhaps they would be better off if they took care of their own and stopped worrying about saving those of us who have existed for 5,000 years without their assistance.”) And, to hear her eldest son Brian Kronick put it, she was unsettled by Donald Trump’s election.
“I walked her off the ledge a few times,” her son said, describing his mother’s anxiety about a perceived rise in anti-Semitism and other issues.
That anxious need to speak up and to get something done was inherent to her personality, said Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, who met her when he was the rabbi at Temple Beth-Shalom. “She was not a person to sit on the sidelines,” Shapiro said. “She didn’t look at things and say how bad they were and say why, she dreamed of how things could be, and said: why not?” He added: “She was definitely a cut above in terms of her intellect, her astute observations, people and their motivations.”
Jessica Chadbourn, a friend of Maxine Kronick’s, wrote the following poem:
Farewell, Maxine (Goodbye, Dolly.)
Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds cry
For our beloved Maxine has bid us goodbye.
In her wake she leaves an enormous abyss,
But we all must remember the things that we’ll miss.
A devoted fan and lover of art,
Her patronage matched the size of her heart.
Her passion for the theater and movies, of course,
Her dedication to children was a powerful force.
With a sprinkle of glitter, her love was prolific,
As she showed all her students how to be Theateriffic.
A mother, grandmother, mentor, and friend,
She fought for tolerance and liberty right to the end.
Her limitless energy let thoughts dance in her head:
“If we don’t have dreams, we’ll have nightmares,” she said.
A muse and a poet, and yes, drama queen,
She even rhymed on her answering machine.
She taught us that silenced voices we can never afford,
Her pen was much mightier than the bullying sword.
Neither cruel nor unkind, and always in purple ink,
Her words inspired action and forced us to think –
Not of ourselves, but of others, who may simply have less,
An oversized heart she did truly possess.
Her faith was important, she saw no room for denial,
And made time to protest and attend every trial.
A political junkie and loyal news hound,
She lobbied tirelessly until justice was found.
Oprah? Obama? NBC? CNN?
“Go big or go home,” she’d say with a grin.
“A Grandmother’s Wish” calls for “a better tomorrow”
So it’s up to us to create a world without sorrow.
And she wouldn’t want any of us feeling bereft:
For she lived, she laughed, she loved, she learned,
The following is Maxine Kronick’s obituary, published in Flint, Mich., where she lived most of her life before Flagler Beach.
Maxine Kronick was born and raised in Troy, New York, attended the University of Bridgeport, and lived most of her life in Flint, Michigan, where she developed an acting career. Maxine later was appointed Director of Special Events for the City of Flint, and went on to a career in international events in Israel and Brazil. She also produced two documentary films: one focused on the Jewish people remaining in Eastern Europe following the holocaust; and the second the 30,000. Jewish lives saved in Shanghai China. She had spoken in over 80 cities and the documentary “From the Shetl with Love” aired on public television. “Passport to Life, Destination Shanghai” was featured at the West Palm Beach Film Festival. Her “3 minutes of fame” was in Michael Moore’s first documentary “Roger and Me.” Upon her return to the States in 1992, she settled in Flagler Beach and created Theateriffic, a professional performing arts company for children. In 2005, Maxine was coordinator of the Daytona Beach Film Festival. “A Grandmother’s Wish” by Grandma Max is a children’s book written by Maxine, illustrated by young people from the area, and animated by her dear friends Leigh Ann Singleton and David Lawter. She has been a volunteer in the theater department of Buddy Taylor Middle School. Maxine leaves a devoted family: Brian and Kathy Kronick, Brittany, Rachel and Jordyn of New Jersey; Scott and Lisa Kronick, Jacquelin and Samuel of Beijing, China; Dana and Michael Buttlar, Eden and Rudy of Laguna Hills, California; and Erin Krugel, Sloane and Orley of Huntington Woods, Michigan. She was also blessed with many incredible friendships. There will be a private funeral and no visitation at her request. Memorial contributions can be made to City Repertory Theater, City Marketplace, 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite B207, Palm Coast, Florida 32164; the Simon Wiesenthal Center or any children’s charity of your choice. Condolences may be sent to www.craigflaglerpalms.com.