In Dec. 1973, Pat Lindley drove to Wellington and started her 27-year career as director of the Herrick Memorial Library.
Forty-two years later, it seemed nearly the entire village turned out to honor her Saturday in the center that now bears her name: the Patricia Lindley Center for the Performing Arts.
It’s a long way from Lindley’s first job to the opening of a $2.5 million, 600-seat facility and Wellington celebrated in grand style, complete with a search light out front, tuxedoed ushers, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and a white tablecloth reception ceremony.
Welcome to the Lindley Center, the people’s theater.
“It’s as much a tribute to Wellington as it is to Patricia Lindley,” said Jim Nichols, theater operations director. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
The 90-minute inaugural event featured Wellington talent. Performers sang, danced, and drummed their way into the hearts of the audience and earned standing ovations.
So did Bill Brumfield, husband of the late Patricia Lindley, and the donor who gave $1.25 million toward construction.
“This center is an expression of the love Bill had for Pat,” said Patti Young, who introduced Brumfield. “It recognizes her life well-lived. It also expresses the love Bill has for all us. Think about the overwhelming generosity of his gesture, overwhelming support that came from the community for this project. Think about how generations to come will have an unparallelled resource for entertainment, self growth, socialization, and so much more. The center will contribute to the vitality and economic health of our community for years to come.”
“Pat was a friend of the arts and all things Wellington,” Brumfield said. “Today is a great day for Wellington. We are at a moment when great things are about to happen again for our schools and for our town. These are the good old days. Our best days are still ahead of us.”
The performers included the Wellington Community Chorus, Wellington High School marching band, United Congregational Church’s handbell choir, McCormick Middle School principal Craig Housum, and members of the eighth grade and high school choirs.
“I thought it was very fun being in the play, being on the stage performing,” said Paige Bremke, who portrayed a young library patron toting books across the stage with a red wagon, what Lindley called her “bookmobile.”
Lindley met and eventually married Brumfield and dedicated her life to Wellington. She was involved with St. Patrick’s Manor, which provided low income, affordable housing for seniors; and became the first woman admitted to Wellington Kiwanis. She sang in the Congregational Church choir, played on the handbell choir, and acted in local plays.
She applied for Wellington to become a Main Street Ohio community to make downtown a better place to live, work, and shop. When the first application failed she had a good cry and got busy on the second application.
She was also chair of the grants committee of the Community Foundation of Lorain County.
Since her death five years ago, the Pat Lindley Charitable Fund, established through the Community Foundation, has contributed to 25 different non-profit organizations including the library, the school system, and Main Street Wellington.
“She made Wellington her home town and she believed in giving back to the community,” Brumfield said. “I know she would be so well pleased to know that the people of Wellington built this marvelous facility.”
“Pat Lindley was the catalyst that made this beautiful structure what we see today,” said Barbara O’Keefe, former mayor and longtime friend of Brumfield and Lindley.
School district supporter Mike Sunderman introduced a short film with Brumfield and some key members of the team that was the nucleus for fundraising to build the center. “I’ve had people ask outside how a small community was able to make this first-class facility a reality,” Sunderman said. “Look around. This place is absolutley incredible.”
It began with a small group of four in the back room of Bread-N-Brew just a few days after the levy to build a new middle school passed. Everyone played a key role in the group led by Brumfield to make this happen. It would take a substantial amount of money and the group wondered if they could do it. Fr. James Reymann chided them for being “men of little faith,” passed a sizeable check across the table, and said, “Now, get busy.”
Brumfield offered a challenge of a $1.25 million matching grant. With less than a million to go, community members stood outside with signs marking the money countdown.
They stood in rain and snow. And they made it happen.
In all, more than 1,000 donors large and small contributed money to make the center a reality.
“We went to the man on the street and they came through in spades,” said one of the leaders in the film that played for the grand opening. “That was what we really wanted — for people to have a piece of this and ownership in this. For grandmas and grandpas to say, ‘I helped build that.’”
In all, $3.85 million was raised: $2.5 million for the building and another $1.3 million in three endowed funds to provide for maintenance, management, and programmatic support.
“Everybody in my family was on the stage at the old McCormick school, so I’m all for some place nice this like,” said Marilyn Regal just before the performance. Maile Oswald, 11, already performed in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” on the Lindley Center stage. “It’s amazing,” she said of the center. “It’s perfect.”
“It’s nice to have such a great space to be able to perform in,” said Ian Smith, who reprised a part from “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which he performed in high school. Now he attends Baldwin-Wallace University.
The Lindley Center is “just as nice as the facility we have there,” he said. “It’s an absolutley beautiful space. Theater is a huge part of being able to build a community and broaden your horizons.”
Jim Farago summed up the evening: “I thought it was a glorious evening, something the whole community should be proud of and we were really glad to be part of it.”
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.
Photos by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise
Craig Housum, McCormick Middle School principal, sings “Play Misty for Me.”