RIP Ray Shepardson (1944-2014), who passed away on Monday.
Without him, we’d have parking lots on Euclid Avenue where brilliant marquees now glitter and gleam. Yes, Ray Shepardson saved the theater district from being demolished in the early 1970s when, as a young man, he provided the vision and energy to save those glorious, unique theaters for future generations.
But his contributions to Cleveland aren’t just in memorialized in brick and mortar. Because of Shepardson, countless peoples’ lives have been enhanced by the shows that have filled, and continue to fill, those hallowed entertainment halls.
So, a deep bow to the genius and industriousness of Ray Shepardson: A man who knew how to treasure and preserve the things we value most. Epitaphs don’t get much better than that.
Playhouse Square posted this note on its site today:
PlayhouseSquare is heartbroken to learn of the death of founder Raymond K. “Ray” Shepardson on Monday, April 14, 2014. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and all those who knew him.
Call it luck or call it fate, Ray Shepardson was undoubtedly in the right place at the right time when, as an employee of the Cleveland Board of Education, he was looking for a suitable meeting space for teachers and came across a series of abandoned theaters. With incredible foresight and vision, he believed that restoring and revitalizing those theaters would transform downtown Cleveland. His powers of persuasion convinced others that the theaters were an irreplaceable resource. Following a grueling seven-year run of presenting 200-300 performances each year before the theaters were fully restored, Shepardson went on to play starring roles in theater restoration projects in Columbus, Detroit and St. Louis, and has consulted on more than 35 major restoration projects all over the country.
“We remain deeply grateful to Ray. He was a true visionary and were it not for his engaging personality and determination, PlayhouseSquare would not be in existence,” said PlayhouseSquare President and CEO Art J. Falco, “We are proud to carry on his legacy.”
In the theater tradition, PlayhouseSquare will dim the marquee lights in honor of Ray this evening.
Plans for a memorial service will be announced later this spring.