We at the Humane Society of the United States were so saddened to learn of the death on Sunday evening in New York City of Mary Balkin Max, a member of our HSUS Board of Directors and a generous and dedicated supporter of our work. Her passing is a terrible loss for those who loved her, and especially for those of us who worked with her in the cause of animal protection, which she served so well and so faithfully, for so long. 

Mary had a big, big heart, a grassroots advocate’s eye of the field, and a great passion for pushing forward the bold, broad agenda of the HSUS, on whose board she had served since 2005. Whether it involved spirited ballot initiative campaigns, support for plant-based eating and meat reduction programs, or recruitment for our New York gala, when Mary was in, she was all in.

At the same time, Mary, who especially loved cats, understood the personal and elemental value of petkeeping, and made sure to support programs and initiatives that helped other people who shared her desire to enjoy the company of animals. She backed the Safety Net Program, a pet surrender prevention initiative that eventually morphed into our Pets for Life program. The initiative kept thousands of animals in homes all over New York by providing support and resources to those of limited income who were struggling to keep their pets. On the same grounds, she gave her all to a campaign to strengthen New York City’s policies on pets in housing.

Mary and her husband, Peter Max, frequently lent their names and their home to important gatherings and to fundraising events. Peter, who had lived in the global limelight for more than half a century, usually accompanied Mary to HSUS board meetings in Washington DC and elsewhere. He was a consistent presence at associated social gatherings. Invariably, he would introduce himself to others with the words, “I’m Peter, Mary Max’s husband.”

For years, Mary sent out wonderfully conceived and beautifully written action alerts to countless New Yorkers about the issues of the day, and she was never too busy to lend an ear or a shoulder to other campaigners in need of counsel or comfort. The gathering of people to the work was what counted to Mary, and it will be her most important legacy.

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