Walter R. Brooks
Walter R. Brooks was born in Rome, NY in 1886. At 15, Walter went to the Mohegan Lake Military Boys Academy where he played football and was the assistant editor of the school newspaper. Walter attended the University of Rochester and went on to study homeopathic medicine in New York City.
After his travels, Walter settled in Greenwich Village, the Bohemian section of New York City and worked as a magazine editor for several magazines including The New Yorker and The American Red Cross magazine. During this time, he also wrote novels and short stories on the side. Literary success came in 1927, when his first children’s book To and Again whose main character Freddy the Pig and his life on the “Bean farm” captured the hearts of children and parents alike. The humorous tales of the talking animals were light and playful. The book became the first of a hit 26 book series. Another of Brooks’ short stories, Ed Takes the Pledge, about a talking horse, went on to become the basis for the well known 1960’s television comedy series Mister Ed. The imaginative works of Walter Brooks have enjoyed decades of popularity.
Eleanora Wallace Collins
Eleanora Collins was born on Valentines Day in 1936, in Batavia, NY. Her mother, a classically trained graduate of Eastman School of Music taught piano and organ. Her father, who sang, played the drums and string bass, provided a jazz influence, so Ellie developed a liking for both musical styles. Elli
Ellie has served Rome’s First United Methodist Church as choir director for more than 35 years. She has organized and directed several benefit concerts and numerous ecumenical choirs. As a member of the Wednesday Morning Club, she has directed a hand bell concert and 6 December Choral programs.
In 2001, she became a charter member of the Oneida County Freedom Trail Commission. She has presented numerous informational talks to history clubs, church groups and schools on the Underground Railroad. Ellie’s love or participation in music is a constant and welcome companion through her daily activities whether she is gardening, making craft projects or doing historical research.
McKinley “Mac” Collins
McKinley Collins was born in Mayflower, Arkansas in 1925. In 1927, his family moved to Rome, where Mac attended Dewitt Clinton Elementary School and RFA where he enjoyed school politics and acting. In 1943, Mac was drafted into the Army and shipped off to Nagoya, Japan.
Mac’s singing talents were not discovered until 1946 at Rome’s Mount Calvary Baptist Church when he was encouraged to take voice lessons. It wasn’t long until he entered and won several Welsh Eisteddfods (singing contests). Mac sang with Utica’s Grace Episcopal Church choir for 52 years. Between 1946 and 2007, he participated in numerous concerts and recitals at venues including Utica, Hamilton, Hobart and Dennison Colleges; Munson Williams Proctor Institute, Kirkland Art Center, Rome Art and Community Center, Kleinhans Music Hall and numerous area churches. As a member of the Rome Civic Chorus, Rome Choral Society, and Utica Community Choral Society; Mac’s performances included Brahm’s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, Haldel’s Messiah, Bach’s Magnificat, Shubert’s Mass in G and Hayden’s The Creation, just to mention a few. Mac’s stage performances include South Pacific, Finian’s Rainbow, Kiss Me Kate, Man of LaMancha, Ahmahl and the Night Visitors, and Martha.
Mac has delighted audiences for more than 60 years. In 2001, he released an enjoyable CD of Traditional American Music. Mac’s love of music has been passed on to his 5 children and 7 grandchildren.
Randy Fields was born September 18, 1946, in Bennettsville, South Carolina; the oldest of four sons of Etah and H. W. Fields. Randy studied tap and ballroom dance and played piano, clarinet and drums while in school and was named the “Most Talented” member of his senior class in 1964.
In college, Randy majored in journalism receiving a Bachelors degree. He also took acting classes and appeared in several productions where he was bitten by the theatre bug. He went on to complete another Bachelors degree, this time it was a degree in Modern Dance.
In 1974 Randy moved to New York City where he studied jazz and modern dance at the Alvin Ailey School, as well as tap dance with choreographer Henry LaTang and voice with Jim Gassett. Randy toured with the casts of Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Oklahoma, Godspell and The King and I.
Randy moved to the Mohawk Valley in 1980. He directed, acted and choreographed with Players of Utica; taught jazz and theatre dance at Munson Williams Proctor Institute; and choreographed several pieces at Hamilton College. These activities have totaled choreography for approximately 70 area productions.
Since 1990, Randy has been singing, dancing and acting in SummerStage productions at Rome’s Capitol Theatre. In 1993 he became the theatre’s choreographer and in 1995 Peter Loftus became the theatre’s director, beginning a successful partnership spanning more than 15 years. After forty-plus productions at the Capitol, Randy continues dancing, teaching and enjoying roles as an “older character actor.”
Peter J. Loftus
Peter Loftus was born in Utica, NY in 1959. He has been interested in performing and directing since the age of seven, when he forced his cousins to put on “shows” for the family during holiday get-togethers.
Peter attended Utica and Whitesboro schools where he was president of the Drama Club.
After college, Peter began his career in local community theatrical productions. He performed with The Upstagers, Players of Utica and Rome Community Theater. In 1982, he directed a musical production of Scrooge. That tradition has continued annually through the decades to the delight of Central New York audiences. Peter co-founded Rukus Productions with his dear friend Bonnie Hibbard and together they have produced several musicals. He has performed in, or directed more than 30 plays and musicals for SummerStage at Rome’s Capitol Theatre and more than 50 productions for the Players of Utica. In 1999, Peter directed the Off-Broadway play Sketches of Boz written and performed by friend Richard Enders.
Peter has also explored wider audiences by performing with the Utica B Sharp Club, The Town of Trenton Community Productions, The M. Proctor Theatre guild, The Etude club, Mohawk Valley Ballet, Petronella Productions and the Vinnie Coluzza Memorial Fund. He has served as cantor at Utica’s St. Mark’s Church for more than 25 years.
Shirley Barnard Waters
Shirley Barnard was born in Syracuse in 1921 and her family moved to Rome in 1933. Shirley attended Syracuse University where she studied painting and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She also enjoyed a passion for journalism and it was while studying that form of communication, she met George Waters. They married in 1943.
Shirley has been a prolific as well as talented artist creating more than 400 paintings. She also has organizational skills which she used as a founding board member of Sculpture Space. With that organization Shirley has worked to develop the Griffiss International Outdoor Sculpture Park.
Shirley was a member of the committee organized in 1979 to save and preserve Utica’s Stanley Theatre. Mstislav Rostropovich performed a benefit concert which generated the desperately needed seed money to keep the theatre afloat and began its’ amazing rejuvenation. After the closing of Griffiss Air Force Base, Shirley assisted Smith Post American Legion in persuading the Air Commander to leave a decommissioned B52 bomber and Cruise Missile as a static display near the area formerly used as an entrance to the base.
Additional associations for Shirley have included the Rome Art Association, Rome Art and Community Center, Jervis Library, Utica Arts Association, Greater Utica Artists League, Munson Williams Proctor Institute, Central New York Community Arts Council, Empire State Crafts Alliance and United Arts Fund of the Mohawk Valley. Shirley notes her crowning achievement as sharing life with her husband George and their five children Peter, Steve, Nancy, Kristin, and Dean.