Lee Adey, longtime theater prof at U of M

  • Article by: PAMELA MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2010 - 8:00 PM

He taught generations of students acting, directing and backstage arts and nurtured community theaters.

Lee Adey, a longtime professor of theater arts at the University of Minnesota who nurtured generations of aspiring actors and community troupes, died Thursday at his home in Apple Valley. He was 82.

Adey was a key figure in the U's theater arts department from the late 1950s to 1996, when he retired, family and former colleagues said. He taught acting, directing and other theater skills, and acted in and directed plays at the U and in theaters statewide.

"He was a hard worker, a theater generalist who was good at almost every aspect of it," said Mary Sue Adey, his wife of 33 years.

Adey was born in West Virginia and grew up in Akron, Ohio, where he was a good athlete in high school but "struggled academically" until an interest in theater helped him re-engage, his wife said. In 1952, he graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., with a degree in theater arts.

Soon after, he came to the University of Minnesota as a grad student, a venture interrupted by stateside service in the Army during the Korean War. Afterward, he returned to the U to finish his degree.

"He was very much liked and appreciated by Frank Whiting," then head of theater at the U, his wife said. After teaching and acting in New York for a couple of years, marrying his first wife, Betty, and starting a family, he returned to the U in the late 1950s.

Except for two years spent teaching at Southern Colorado State College in Pueblo in the early 1970s, he was at the U for more than 35 years. As well as teaching young actors, directors and stage designers, he was instrumental in redesigning and running the original U Centennial Showboat (it burned in 2000).

He also was a key figure with the former Stagecoach Players in Shakopee and many other small theaters.

After retiring in 1996, he acted in many plays and worked as charitable gambling manager for a Richfield American Legion post until his health began to fail in 2007.

Wendell Josal, former U theater arts department chairman, called his friend of 50 years "a man of all talents." One month he would be intensely teaching young actors and directors at the U; the next, he might be playing Jesse James in a Stagecoach production. "He was a wonderful person, very popular with students," Josal said.

Patsy Monson, of St. Louis Park, a student of Adey's at the U in the 1960s, is now a costume designer. Even years after retirement, Adey remembered all his students and kept up with many, she said.

He also loved hiking and hunting, his wife said. "He was a rare bird that way -- loved art, painting, theater, of course, but was just as passionate about the natural world," she said.

Adey had four children with his first wife; they later divorced and she has since died. He had two more children with Mary Sue and raised a daughter she brought to their marriage.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by daughters Kathleen Hall of Cannon Falls, Minn., and Phoebe Krejci of Minneapolis; sons Robin of Marceline, Mo., Kevin of Sunburg, Minn., Christopher of Dousman, Wis., Larkin of St. Paul and Andrew of Minoqua, Wis.; a brother, Don, of Akron; nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 5 p.m. Monday on the University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat at Harriet Island in St. Paul.

Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290

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