LOUIS “LOUIE” FLYNN

  LOUIS “LOUIE” FLYNN

   Louis Flynn, 86, of El Cerrito, California, died there on January 4, 2008, after a brief illness.

   He was born in Edina, Missouri, on February 26, 1921, to John and Louise Fitzgerald Flynn.

   Louis Flynn and Bettianne Foster married June 11, 1949 in Seattle, Washington.  They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area (California) in 1955 and settled in El Cerrito in 1956.  In 1959 they founded Contra Costa Civic Theatre, with Louis serving as Artistic Director, remaining in that role for the next 48 years.

   Flynn received his bachelor’s degree from Seattle University in Seattle, Washington.  Graduate school followed at Catholic University in Washington, DC, where Flynn completed his Masters Degree in playwriting.  Samuel French published his Master’s- thesis project, “The Orchid Sandwich”, in 1976 under the title “Madness on Madrona Drive.”  The play has been performed several times on Contra Costa Civic Theatre;s stage—most recently in 2006- and numerous times around the nation.

   During the 1970’s he hosted “The Louis Flynn Show,” interviewing local notables on a local-cable-access station.

   During Louis’ run at CCCT, he served as director, producer, and most prominently, as an actor in literally thousands of performances.  His most recent appearance was as the trolley car driver in “Meet Me in St. Louis” in the summer of 2007.

   Louis Flynn is survived by his daughter Kathleen Ray of Richmond, CA, who runs the Drama Department at Head-Royce School in Oakland, son Matt Flynn of Los Angeles, Art Director on the television show “The Office,” son-in-law Ken Ray and grandson Alexander Ray, also of Richmond, and granddaughter Maureen Ray of Oakland.

   Flynn was very active in the performing arts, beginning at an early age.  An accomplished pianist, he would accompany his mother at singing recitals and church.  A reluctant last-minute replacement in a school play at the age of six, he would be a part of the theater, onstage and off- for the next eight decades as an actor, director, playwright, and pillar of the San Francisco East Bay’s theatre scene.

   Some of his most memorable roles included Elwood P. Dowd in “Harvey”, Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”, and Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner”.

   Entering military service during World War II, he served in the Army’s Third Infantry Division, 30th Infantry Regiment until 1945.  Though he participated in significant and historic events, including landing at the beaches of Anzio in Italy, battles in Southern France, and entering Germany in 1945, battle-scene recollections were rare.  It was the entertainers in touring USO shows that Flynn recalled fondly, among them Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontane, Jack Benny, and Ingrid Bergman, along with Maurice Evans in “G.I. Hamlet.”

   Louis lived a rich, full life right up until the end.  He continued to play walk-on roles at CCCT, hosted cast parties, and enjoyed having friends over for dinner.  He hosted the monthly CCCT Artistic Advisory Committee meetings at his home and was actively working on selecting productions for the upcoming 2008-09 season.

   Flynn invented and relished CCCT’s unique closing night ritual of presenting Saint Genesius medals to everyone involved in the production.  His love of film made him a regular at the movies, and he was a card-carrying member of the Jeanette MacDonald Fan Club.

   Louis Flynn received several proclamations and honors from the El Cerrito City Council, recognizing CCCT’s contribution to community theatre and acknowledging its commitment to volunteers. In 1978, the El Cerrito City Council named CCCT’s home on Pomona “The Flynn Building”.  Additional honors include: City of El Cerrito- el Cerrito Wall of Fame, 1991 (Louis and Bettianne); Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors: Arts Recognition Award, 2002, honoring Louis Flynn for being a “…leader in the arts and having a significant impact on the arts of Contra Costa County.”; California State Senate: 2002, Certificate of Recognition acknowledging “outstanding achievements as artistic director and co-founder of Contra Costa Civic Theatre.”; Solano Stroll: 200, a local “Living Legend”.

   The Neptune Society handled cremation.  A Mass of Resurrection was held for Louis on Saturday, January 12, at St. John the Baptist Church in El Cerrito.  A celebration of Louis’ life will be held at a later date in 2008.  Details will be announced on CCCT’s website: www.ccct.org.

   Contributions in honor of Louis Flynn may be sent to the Flynn Memorial Fund, Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530.