SPRINGFIELD, IL – Donald E “Don” Bailey passed away peacefully in his sleep at Regency Nursing home on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. He was born in Petersburg, IL on March 6, 1936 to Charles William Bailey and Dorothy Dufer Bailey. As a high-school student, he performed in “Forever This Land” at Kelso Hollow Theatre (now Theatre in the Park) and directed the junior class play at Petersburg’s Harris High School. This was the beginning of his love affair with theatre and it continued throughout his life. Don studied acting and majored in directing first at Chicago Art Institute’s Goodman Theatre. He also studied voice at the American Conservatory in Chicago. Subsequently he transferred to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where he majored in theatre, minored in music, and graduated from Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO).
During Don’s 66-year love affair with theatre, he performed in college, professional and community theatre, performed in closed-circuit radio dramas at Hines Veterans Hospital, appeared in documentary films, television commercials, and toured with three different road companies. In the early 60’s when he performed at Villa Venice with the Potluck Review he was acclaimed “One of Chicago’s up-and-coming new actors” in Irv Kupcinet’s Chicago Tribune column.
Don was active in the theatre in several communities including Petersburg, Chicago, Springfield, Marion, and Carbondale. In Springfield he directed 12 shows for the Muni Opera and played leading roles in several shows including John Adams in “1776” twice; first with his wife as Abagail Adams, and then with Robert Alda as Benjamin Franklin and Captain Andy in “Showboat” with William Warfield. He also directed, worked on or appeared in several shows at the Theatre Center (formerly Theatre Guild) for which he was given their Lifetime Service Award. He was also the recipient of Muni’s Presidents Award, Sgt. Caleb Hopkins DAR Chapter’s Community Service Award, Paradise Alley Player’s Robbie Award, and the Stage Company’s Golden Spike Award. He also served on the Board of Managers of the Muni Opera for several years and was its President in 1972 and 1974.
Don performed Ben Franklin twice in TIP’s productions of “1776, was Matthew in “Anne of Green Gables” and John Brown in “John Brown’s Body,” He also fulfilled a life-time dream by directing the return of “Forever This Land” to New Salem.
Perhaps dearest to his heart, though, was his work with the Mature Mob, a group of senior citizens who perform musicals for the benefit of senior citizens. He first played Cole Porter in the Mob’s 2000 production of “Red Hot and Cole” and then directed their shows the next 9 years. He returned this year, after a 7-year furlough, to direct their September production of “A Salute to Broadway” which was his last theatrical endeavor. His Director’s Notes in the program for the show reflected his feelings about the Mob’s shows: “We hope you leave the show with a smile on your face and a warm feeling inside. If so, we will have fulfilled our mission.”
Don is survived by his wife, Velma Neal Bailey; two brothers-in-law, William J. Neal of Ewing and Rollin Thomas of Rochester; two sisters-in-law, Irene Neal Hosner of Gilbert, AZ and Nina Neal Duckworth of Benton, IL as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his parents; only sister, Connie Bailey Thomas; and a niece and nephew.
The family will host a Celebration of Life in Don’s honor at the Real Life Church (2701 Hermitage Road in Springfield) at 2pm on Tuesday, November 22. Excerpts from “A Salute to Broadway” will be shown.
Staab Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Inurnment will be at Neal Cemetery near Benton, IL.
Date: Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Time: 02:00 pm
Real Life Church
Date: Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Memorial contributions to the Senior Services of Central Illinois (701 West Mason, Springfield, IL 62702) will be appreciated.
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My memories of Don go back to family reunions at New Salem State Park when we were "young"! We grew up, I moved away and we never saw each other after that, but we re-connected after the death of his mother. But I always knew what he was doing, as there were close family connections. He truly seemed to live life to the fullest, and I'm sure he'll continue to do so, and maybe lead the choir of "Heavenly Angels"! My sympathies to Velma and extended family.
My deepest condolences to the family, may you find comfort in the memories and in the promise found in the Bible at Acts 24:15 for our love ones who have fallen asleep in death.
I first met Don, back in the late 60's, when he worked at Winch's Floral Shop. He was one of the nicest, funniest people I ever knew; whenever he told a funny story, or - especially - when he laughed, he reminded me of Paul Lynde (ala Laugh In, Hollywood Squares). I was just talking about him a few weeks ago and then I saw he had passed away. Fittingly, Don's name was the first one listed in the obituary's today.......he would've loved that, and I can just hear him cracking some joke about being the 'headline act' in the last great play. God bless you Don, and thanks for all the memories.
Jim Swanson posted on 11/22/16
Don and I were school mates. Then we went different ways on to college, etc. Finally lost touch with Don and tried many times to locate him. We reconnected just a few years ago when he was back at New Salem directing a production he had been in as a school boy. I am saddened by his passing and express my heartfelt sympathies to all his family.