Oct. 4, 1919 ~ Dec. 28, 2012
Leslie Hill, a founding member of West Seattle Totem Theatre, died recently at the age of 93. She was Totem Theatre’s first treasurer, and secured federal non-profit status for the fledgling arts organization in 1982. Totem Theatre went on to become the thriving multi-arts organization now known as ArtsWest.
Born in Louisville, KY, Leslie was the daughter of C. Leslie Hill, an editor for the Associated Press, and Saida Stodghill. Her father died before she was born, so her mother raised Leslie with her Stodghill cousins —Wes, John and Bill—nearby. When Leslie earned her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Louisville in 1941, her cousins considered her the most brilliant one of the bunch. Her uncle had different values and wouldn’t let her attend art school in New York as a post graduate on a full tuition scholarship. Even then, her passions were theatre and ballet and she saw much of both when the "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo" and touring Broadway shows came through town. Leslie and her mother eventually made their home in Missouri.
Leslie met her friend, Dorothy Hackenyos when they each worked for the Metropolitan YWCA of St. Louis—Dorothy as manager of the Y’s residential apartments, and Leslie as an accountant. Dorothy also sang jazz in a local club. Upon Leslie’s retirement in 1981, she and Dorothy pared down their belongings, traded their VW bug for a van and headed to Seattle with Leslie’s two African Grey parrots, Marcus and Nigel.
Once settled, they responded to a notice in the Herald to come to a meeting about a new community theatre forming in West Seattle. They offered the use of their phone as the information number for the new organization. They also ran the box office for the first two years.
When her partner Dorothy was diagnosed with metastatic cancer, Leslie nursed her at home with hospice help. Dorothy succumbed within two months in 1988.
Her parrot, Marcus, became even more of a companion to Leslie after Dorothy’s death. He was every bit as literate and sassy as she was, and jealous of anyone he considered an interloper.
Leslie once told an interviewer that she didn’t come to Seattle “to be a wart on the sidewalk.” She wanted to make a difference in her adopted community. And well she did, volunteering countless hours for the Seattle Audubon Society; also for Totem Theatre, New City Theatre, Intiman, and Seattle Children’s Theatre.
She loved to go, bombing around the Puget Sound area in her little yellow Subaru Outback as well as elder-hosteling five times in Europe. She
stayed in touch with friends all across the country with little hand-lettered witty notes and phone calls. She was fun to spend time with as she had such varied interests. She was direct, her humor irreverent, and she could turn a phrase almost effortlessly.
The earthly vessel that was her increasingly painful body has now been reduced to ashes and placed with those of Dorothy at Forest Lawn Cemetery’s mausoleum as she wished. Family survivors are cousin Bill’s wife, Nancy Stodghill of Louisville, KY, and cousin John’s wife, Marsha Stodghill of San Diego, CA and their families.
A celebration of her life will be held Sunday, February 24, 2013, 1 p.m. at Merrill Gardens of West Seattle, 4611 35th Avenue SW. Please dress casually and prepare to enjoy sharing memories with her many friends.
For more information and to send memories please see her online guestbook at www.Howden-Kennedy.com.
Published in The West Seattle Herald February 22, 2013