Saturday, January 18, 2020
11:30 AM EST
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
247 W. Lovell Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Brunch will be served after the service in St. Luke's Community Room.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Augusta Health Hospice of the Shenandoah Valley
64 Sports Medicine Drive
Fishersville, VA 22939
St. Joseph's Indian School
PO Box 100
Chamberline, SD 57325
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Kathleen Marie Tosco passed away peacefully at her home in Staunton, VA on December 16, 2019. She was 67 years old. Her work as a theatre artist, administrator, educator, and mentor was celebrated by theatre professionals in New York City, Washington DC, and on tour at venues such as Birmingham, Pasadena, San Diego; and as far away as Cairo, Beijing, and Hong Kong. As a Rotary International District Governor, Kathleen was able to broaden the impact of her international and local “Service above Self”. Her proudest achievement was serving over 27 years as co-founder and a leader of ShenanArts in Staunton, Virginia. Her dedication and talent inspired a community of hundreds of families and students and nurtured the work of playwrights and theatre artists from 39 states and 32 countries on 6 continents. Her outreach was vast, and her approach always personal, compassionate, and caring.
Kathleen was born January 19, 1952 in Muskegon, Michigan, the daughter of Mario James and Donna Haight Tosco. Raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, she graduated from Portage Northern High School. By then, her love of theatre was clear. At Catholic University of America, she earned a B.A. degree in Speech Pathology; but her love of theatre continued to grow and evolve as an integral part of her life.
In 1976, Kathleen became a founding company member with New Playwrights Theatre of Washington. Here she also captured the heart of her future husband, Robert Graham Small (Bob). In 1977, she helped create a playwrights residency program in Staunton, Virginia. This was the beginning of a project that would last a life time.
In 1979, Kathleen and husband, Bob, moved to New York City. She unknowingly became the first woman to serve as a theatrical master electrician Off Broadway. Joining the staff of the Tony award winning Chelsea Theatre Centre, she earned her membership into Actors Equity as a union Stage Manager. For PepsiCo Summerfare, she directed the festival’s opening production of the opera Noyes Fluud, starring Carmen DeLavallade, Cleavon Little, June Gable, and featuring the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and a cast of 250 children. She also managed a Victorian mansion, which provided artist housing for the professionals who performed during the festival’s run.
In 1981, Kathleen and Bob were married in Staunton, where she became a founding Managing Director of ShenanArts, a post she served in for the next 23 years. Her leadership allowed ShenanArts to thrive as it fulfilled its mission of using the power of theatre to Build Bridges of Peace and Understanding. Three programs evolved and matured during her tenure: Shenandoah International Playwrights, which achieved national and international prominence; Growing Stages - winner of Bravo Cable’s national Arts for Change award in 1989; and On-Stage Productions – presenting new work as well as more traditional and classic fare.
Staunton Rotary Club invited Kathleen to join in 1991. In 2001, she was elected to serve as the club’s president. On 9/11, she e-mailed her club members to assure them there would be a meeting on this fateful day, and she understood if they needed to be somewhere else. There was nearly 100% attendance - to which Kathleen noted “this is what the family of Rotary is all about”.
As her own family needs changed, Kathleen returned to her native Michigan to provide support. In 2004, she accepted the challenge of becoming the Executive Director for the Greater Kalamazoo Arts Council. Her leadership contributions to her new Rotary District 6360 led to her election as District Governor for 2009/2010. But an even larger challenge loomed in her future.
In 2012, Kathleen was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme. Her surgeon informed her that this fatal brain cancer would claim her life within 18 months. He also said she would not be going to visit her family in Italy for the upcoming wedding of a cousin. True to the way she lived her life, Kathleen approached this new challenge on her own terms, attended the wedding, and enjoyed another seven years with Bob and her family and friends.
This was in part thanks to the next challenge Kathleen undertook. In 2013, she was accepted into a neuro-gene therapy trial at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. She joined the trial for her cancer despite being informed that it could result in the loss of her life. Her answer: “Even if it costs me my life, it will help advance science so that someone else’s life may be saved”.
Kathleen is survived by her husband Bob, her sister Patricia L. Reeves of Vicksburg, MI, niece Shannon and husband Andy Preda of Winnetka, IL, nephew David Reeves and his wife Tabatha, a grandniece and four grand nephews. Kathleen and her husband Bob were not blessed with children, but their work together at ShenanArts and around the world insured that this “Mr. and Mrs. Chips” were blessed with hundreds of them – creative girls and boys alike.
Memorial service will be celebrated at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, MI on January 18, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. Brunch will be served after the service in St. Luke’s Community Room. On May 30, 2020, there will also be a celebration of Kathleen’s life in Staunton, VA. This date would have been Kathleen and Bob’s 39th wedding anniversary. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged for Augusta Health Hospice of the Shenandoah Valley, 64 Sports Medicine Dr., Fishersville, VA 22939 or St. Joseph’s Indian School, PO Box 100, Chamberline, SD. Kathleen was a bequest society donor to Rotary International Foundation. Rotarians may want to contribute through their clubs in her memory. For more information, go to www.lifestorynet.com.