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BHS theater to carry Erekson name

March 11, 2011

Janet Torson

    The theater at Bellmont High School has been named in honor of the man who helped design it and was instrumental in the development of stage productions in the community and at the school some 40 years ago.
    The North Adams school board on Tuesday approved the recommendation of a group of performing arts supporters to re-name the Bellmont Theater the Erekson Memorial Theater in honor of the late Reid Erekson and his wife, Evelyn.
    According to an information sheet distributed at the meeting, Reid Erekson was born in 1905 in Murray, Utah. He married Evelyn Olson on Nov. 21, 1929.
    A graduate of the University of Utah, Reid Erekson began his stage career as an actor in Hollywood, then joined a traveling theater group in the 1930s. In 1937 he joined the staff of the University of Minnesota as assistant professor of drama and radio. He founded the first radio station at the university.
    In 1942 he and his family moved to Fort Wayne, where he became the director of the Civic Theater and taught speech at Fort Wayne's Indiana University facility.
    In 1950 he accepted a position as director of sales training at Central Soya (now Bunge North America) and moved to Decatur. He retired in 1970.
    Reid Erekson then accepted the position as theater director at the newly created Bellmont High School in 1970. He oversaw the final design and physical completion of the 820-seat theater and subsequently started a community theater group, directing more than 40 plays. His wife performed in several of those productions.
    Erekson devoted some 11 years in developing and promoting the theater before retiring once again in 1981. On July 2, 1990, he and his wife were injured in an automobile accident. Evelyn Erekson died the following day, and Reid Erekson died a month later.
    They are the parents of four children: Sandra Mutschler (deceased), Gary Erekson of Fort Wayne, Greta Schnept of Huntington, and Taya Cowan of Fort Wayne.
    Janet Torson, a longtime North Adams teacher, called Reid Erekson "a dreamer with a vision, a director and a teacher. As we look back at the past 40 years on this campus, we still feel his presence."
    Torson quoted committee member Jeannie Smith in noting that Erekson's legacy "goes beyond the bricks and mortar that make up the Bellmont Theatre. It is bringing quality theater productions to Decatur and Adams County."

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