1938 - 2017
We grieve the loss of our beloved longtime Board President Tom DeMille,
who passed away peacefully on February 24, 2017.
Words cannot fully convey the depth of what Tom gave to the New London Barn Playhouse over his decades of dedicated commitment. He was the beating heart of the place. Come May each year, he would seem to be everywhere at once: hanging up posters, hammering in nails, rehearsing for a show, running meetings, handing out tickets, chatting with patrons. The artistic excellence and financial stability that the Barn has achieved over the past ten years stand as a testament to his sure-handed, understated leadership. And you will never find a kinder boss. Anywhere.
We have lost a leader, a father, and a friend.
We are proud to dedicate our 85th Summer Season to the memory of Tom DeMille, as a reflection and a celebration of the incalculable impact of a life well and generously lived in the arts. The best way we can thank him is to make it the most beautiful season we’ve ever had. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
We love you, Tom. Watch over us. We’ll try to make you proud.
Honoring A Legacy: The DeMille Fund
Established in support of the New London Barn Playhouse
Honoring Tom and Wynne DeMille’s decades of commitment to our theater
For decades, Tom and Wynne DeMille cheerfully rolled up their sleeves and did whatever was needed to keep the Barn moving forward. Successfully leading a non-profit professional theater in a 200-year-old barn means expecting the unexpected, and Tom knew that better than anyone. Whether it was the basement flooding, skunks in the orchestra pit, a Kitchen Manager quitting in the midst of dinner service, or a housing contract falling through mid-May, Tom remained unflappable: calm, composed, and armed always with an unsinkable sense of humor.
In honor of that legacy, contributions to The DeMille Fund will be simply designated as general-purpose gifts and directed wherever they happen to be needed most. It may be badly-needed capital improvements, or plane tickets for a musician from California, or a plumber’s bill, or new bunkbeds, or any one of a million critically important other things. Whatever it is, you can be sure of one thing: Tom would have taken care of it.
To make a gift to the DeMille Fund, please click here or send your gift to us at PO Box 9, New London NH 03257. Please remember to designate the fund if sending a check.
Tom DeMille Obituary
Thomas W. DeMille of New London, New Hampshire, died at home surrounded by his loving family on February 24th, 2017. Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts on October 9, 1938, he was the son of Thomas Martin and Margaret (Ashmore) DeMille. Tom achieved great success as an attorney and later as a preserver, protector and rejuvenator of historic treasures, significantly of summer stock theaters.
Tom graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Business Administration from Northeastern University in 1961 and was awarded a Juris Doctor Degree, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Connecticut, School of Law and made a Member of The Law Review in 1969. He was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U.S Army Signal Corps and stationed at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where he met his love of fifty-five years, Winifred S. Cleaver, a brand new Registered Nurse. Just as in the musical South Pacific, it was love at first sight “across a crowded room,” which led to marriage a few months later.
After military service, Tom & Wynne relocated to Enfield, Glastonbury and eventually Old Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he was one of the Founders of the prestigious law firm of Updike, Kelly and Spellacy, P.C. Regarded as the preeminent real estate counsel in Connecticut, Tom played the leading role in the construction of major projects across the State, particularly with respect to the development of Regional Shopping Centers. He served as Government Affairs Chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Very active in the affairs of his adopted community, Tom served multiple terms as Town Attorney, President of the Wethersfield Historical Society and Founder and President of the Wethersfield Preservation Trust. He chaired the successful conversion of the old High School into the award-winning Keeney Memorial Cultural Center. Also deeply involved in the Greater Hartford cultural scene, Tom served as an Elector of the Wadsworth Atheneum, Chair of the Greater Hartford Chamber Orchestra and on many programs sponsored by The Greater Hartford Arts Council.
Tom and Wynne participated in the amazing rebirth of Old Wethersfield in the 1970s and 80s, restoring, among others, the 1774 Captain Josiah Buck Homestead, on the Wethersfield Cove, raising sons Tom and John, along with Wynne’s Arabians, beloved dogs and assorted barn cats.
Tom DeMille sang God Bless America in front of a live audience at age 3 and became hopelessly hooked on all things theatrical! This fascination led to singing gigs with his brothers and numerous roles with community groups and in college musicals. His theatrical adventures were interrupted by forty years of practicing law which is very much like acting (except you have to write your own material).
From their summer home in New London, New Hampshire (the 1794 Josiah Brown House which they had restored over the years), Tom & Wynne had the privilege of working for decades with theatrical legend Norman Leger who, against all odds, had managed to keep the nationally known summer theater, the New London Barn Playhouse, alive as other theatres fell by the wayside one by one. Upon their retirement to New London in 2003, the DeMilles were able to play a more instrumental role in the successful effort to turn The Barn into a non-profit corporation.
The New London Barn Playhouse continued to thrive under Tom’s direction. Money was raised, deficits were eliminated, Art Deco Seats were refurbished, air conditioning and many other physical improvements were added. But it is the area of artistic performance where the miracles really occurred. First with Carol Dunne and now under the artistic leadership of Keith Coughlin, the New London Barn Playhouse has become the acknowledged leading producer of musicals in the State of New Hampshire and was recently awarded the Winner of the Moss Hart Award for Professional Excellence throughout New England. All this, plus Tom got to play favorite old-guy character roles in over twenty plays at the Barn and the Newport Opera House. “We cannot underestimate the impact that Tom and Wynne’s love and care of the New London Barn Playhouse has had on thousands of peoples’ lives,” says Dunne. “Tom’s belief in and support of the Barnies was personal and limitless.”
But through all his successes, the most important part of Tom’s life was his family. The relationship with wife Wynne and children Tom and John was extremely close for his entire life. He was blessed to be able to see the birth of six grandchildren and experience with them a significant part of their lives. He was most happy to be able to spend many, many summers and holidays with all of them, giving them rides in his classic Model A, swimming or golfing with them. He would travel to South Carolina or Massachusetts to see his grandchildren’s plays, sporting events, or family celebrations.
Besides Wynne, Tom leaves behind son Tom (Andrea) grandchildren Ethan, Cameron and Jason DeMille of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina; son John (Carolyn) and grandchildren Emma, Sarah and Alex DeMille of Medfield, Mass., Brother William DeMille (Ann) of Abington, and sisters Lois DeMille of Marlboro, Meg Whitehead (Craig) of Ashland, and Tom’s sister- in-law Evelyn Smith-DeMille, wife of his late brother Jack. Tom’s extended family includes beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins who have been an important part of his life.