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KATHLEEN SIMPSON - FERRISBURGH - Actress, dancer and teacher, Kathleen McLean Simpson, 93, passed away on Nov. 15, 2012. She leaves numerous theatre credits to her name from 1937 to 1995. Her 1947 Broadway debut, and most notable role, was as Mary Skinner, in "Life With Father" - the longest running non-musical show on Broadway. The eldest daughter of Catherine (Reynolds) and Robert McLean (a New York Times reporter), Kathleen was born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., June 27, 1919. Her younger sister, Claire, and older brother, Robert, who was killed as a test pilot during W.W.II, predeceased her. Before graduating from St. Gabriel High School, New Rochelle, N.Y., Kathleen was hired as a dancer at the 1939 New York World's Fair colossal production, the American Jubilee (Hammerstein and Schwartz). It was there that she met Garry Simpson, a leading actor for the Shakespearean Theatre, Merry England. They were married on Nov. 24, 1940. In 1951, Kathleen moved with her husband, Garry, and their children, to Greenwich, Conn. Though her devotion to family was always first, she began a certification process with the National Academy of Ballet in New York, and then opened her own ballet studio. She continued to be involved both on and off stage with the Greenwich Playmakers and other theatre companies, as a choreographer and staring in many productions - "Pajama Game," "How to Succeed In Business," "Oklahoma" and "South Pacific." Kathleen loved the ocean, sailing, and was an excellent swimmer. As she had done in her youth, she spent countless summer days with her children at Long Island's Jones Beach and Todds Point in Greenwich. This love of the water brought the family to settle on Lake Champlain in Charlotte in 1967. Kathleen continued her involvement in theatre as one of the pioneers of the Champlain Valley Players, which later evolved into Lyric Theatre. She opened her ballet studio in Charlotte and was fondly known as "the dance teacher" in town. She was an active member in many organizations; the Charlotte Garden Club, the Charlotte and CVU School Boards, the Charlotte and Ferrisburgh Grange, the Charlotte Congregational Church, and St. Peter's Church in Vergennes. Kathleen and Garry built a new home in Ferrisburgh, near Basin Harbor, after Garry retired in 1979 from Vermont Educational Television and the University of Vermont. But, Kathleen never rested. An avid gardener, she was busy with grandchildren, and tireless supporter for her husband's quest to restore the Vergennes Opera House. She helped to organize the campaign to resurrect the then abandoned Vergennes Opera House, which proudly reopened in 1997. Kathleen is survived by her brother, John McLean; and her four children, Carly Simpson of Salyer, Calif., Brian and Karen Simpson of Lawndale, N.C., John Simpson and Suzanne Cross of San Francisco, Calif., and Robin Simpson and Gordon Troy of Charlotte. There are also nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Christopher Koier and daughter, Aida; Robert Koier; Nathan Simpson and Clarissa Finks Simpson; Bryan LaBarge; Caitlin LaBarge; Shannon Simpson Nagle and Tony Nagle and sons, Anthony and Garrett; Colin Simpson; Devin Simpson; and Sean Simpson. There will be no calling hours. Graveside services for Kathleen will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, at the Gage Cemetery, Little Chicago Road, Ferrisburgh. Online condolences may be expressed at In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation may be made in the name of Kathleen Simpson to The Humane Society of the United States (horse slaughter protection), 2100 L. St., NW, Washington DC 20037.

Published in The Burlington Free Press on Nov. 18, 2012
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