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December 8 1976 | Lubbock, Texas
Following is the transcription of the image at left, as mentioned. Jack Walrath Sheridan passed away in Amarillo, Texas in 1987.
Monday, December 8, 1976 West Texas Times
by Jack Sheridan
Time and again throughout the history of man on earth we have heard the expression that "God moves in mysterious ways …." Most of the time you and I as His children accept, without question, this reasoning, Sometimes it is totally acceptable; other times it puzzles and seems inexplicable. Mystery and His purpose are not always understandable to those mortals of us.
What I am trying to say, and sad and puzzled am I, is […] the weekend death of a vibrant young woman, beautiful, high sense of humor, kindness, warmth, gentleness, […] the passing of 27-year-old actress Renee Meeks of this city, of complications following surgery.
These remarks are personal in the extreme, for I loved Renee and did not even know of her death until a close friend of hers called me in the midnight hours Friday to tell me.
Renee Meeks, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Victor Gagnon, 2503 25th St., was, beyond a doubt, the most gifted actress in this community. Her scope of theater was all-sweeping. I first saw Renee perform at Texas Tech University Theater and she was as the arrow that hits the dead center of the target.
Then, she went on to roles at the Lubbock Theatre Centre and the Hayloft Dinner Theater, where she was not only a stunning character actress but served that organization also as a stage manager and public relations lady day and night.
Renee was the kind of person whose voice on the telephone was, enough to make anybody's day. A time spent with her was time well rewarded. I fell in love with her (and I mean this) some time ago and I still glow with my love.
It was no secret that we were close and every time that she completed a performance in a Hayloft play, with my table at the ringside, and was taking her enthusiastic bows, she blew a kiss to me. Those are kisses I shall remember.
Renee went on the "road" with her acting. She played the dinner theater in Amarillo and was a favorite in St. Louis,·Mo.
Renee had been married. She is survived by her parents, a sister of this city, Mrs. Vicki Bush, and a small daughter, Michelle.
Everything Renee Meeks did, her speech, her movements, her acting, was that of excellence. There was a whole world open to her, a full-flowering blossom to pick. She underwent surgery and complications therefrom claimed her last Thursday night.
Somehow I can't accept the fact that Renee Meeks is no longer with us. It is as if some cruel and gigantic hoax has been perpetrated by some foolish man.
But, alas, it is true. All that loveliness, all that talent, all that vibrant and electric personality is gone and Peaceful Gardens Cemetery enshrouds the lady.
I said that man has always said "God moves in mysterious ways" as I began. In this instance, with Renee, why did He snatch her home at the peak of the flowering of that talent which He gave her?
No answer, I suppose. There is left but a void where a marvelous, blessed, desirable woman was. I feel lonely without the knowledge that Renee Meeks is around “doing her thing." I can't quite understand a world without her. Whatever the pattern was, it has been fulfilled and left us with only memories of her contributions.
Re Sheridan's eulogy, Meeks' d.o.d., a poignant send-off.
December 2, 1976 | Lubbock, written from Sacramento
By Steve on 23 Mar 2013--
The facts pertaining to Renee Meek's date of death have been complicated somewhat by reliance on Jack Sheridan's eulogy in order to self affirm recollection by this reporter of the actual date of her passing … the sad knowledge of that dark, barely December Thursday once burnished so deeply as to imagine it could never escape recall or ever hope to be forgotten.
However, based on today’s recovery and perusal of the newspaper obituary itself [Lubbock Avalanche Journal, Saturday Morning, Dec. 4, 1976, pg. 16-A], it is now clear that Jack's article -- where he speaks of hearing news of her death from Renee's “very close friend” – speaks in reference to the “midnight” hours twenty four hours after her demise, not the midnight hours near the actual time of her passing, as might seem the more likely.
The original, Dec. 3, error also arose from less-than-complete recollection (until reminded by the obituary) of the final arrangements discussion to which this writer was a witness—an admittedly overwrought witness following a two-week sleepless vigil and ensuing initial stages of anguish. In that regard, my memory again fell short in that while I correctly remembered discussion of unavailability of the large Broadway Church of Christ auditorium on that Sunday, Dec. 5, I failed to remember an equally difficult problem that prevented deferring the rite until the following Monday, as would typically be the “Sunday solution” for untimely deaths.
The problem, it was feared, was that a workday funeral would impose unduly upon what might turn out to be very large numbers wanting to pay respects to the departed local entertainer; one who was known by TV, sight, and touch to so many. So, in spite of the extra effort it would require, the decision was made to let the final rites go forward on Saturday, scarcely more than a day and a half after Renee’s passing.
That decision proved to be an insightful one. Following services in a sanctuary (and parking lot) filled beyond capacity, a very long and growing procession proceeded out on Broadway and south on Avenue Q, with vehicles spontaneously diverting and joining the procession all along the way south to the highway leading from the city to the cemetery; a sunny, sad parade stretching to a point where procession’s end extended beyond sight of its beginning.
It’s the way Lubbock was in those days. Renee could not have departed the world in a better place!
PS: As to who the “very close friend” was who informed Mr. Sheridan on that late Friday night, I now strain to recall whether or not it was I, her closest “friend,” who made that call. At the time she died, only two others (sans hospital staff, her parents) knew of the event … and only a couple more shortly after. Knowing Sheridan’s and Renee’s mutual occupational affection, it would have been like me to want to inform him even if it meant persisting until late to find him available to answer; and also like me to endeavor to remain so familiarly un-identified – I would suppose that Jack would never have published without confirming; or without having really been introduced earlier to that close friend.
Conversely, as to how such a contact could be so blurred in memory, perhaps it’s the dread of having been privately thought, not so figuratively, to have been that so-oddly contrived gigantically cruel and foolish hoaxer – a Macbeth of sorts who has murdered one man’s joy. But, then, I might have merely informed Jerry, or Becky, or someone else at the Loft who then passed the word.
Hoping for Stars in Amarillo
summer, 1976 | Amarillo, Texas
Before the production run, 6 Rms Riv Vu (please open “…Squire” Playbill picture; see red heart), which would eventually prove Renée’s unintended swan song as a circuit stage performer, the ending days of the Hayloft DT were viewed with trepidation, but also as a turn of fortune that could and would be overcome with effort, flexibility – and the help of friends.
Indeed, it was not that long before she “performed” a commercial TV spot that proved an immediate seller (and could well have smoothed entrée onto other, perhaps many, near and far term, lucrative spokesperson opportunities; but, alas, which also demonstrated the value of having an agent or advocate in that, what was (by the merchant’s own admission) a spot certain to have an extended run, was contracted for a nice flat fee, but without copy right or provision for residuals.
When I drove Renee to Amarillo for an interview and hopeful reading we approached it as both business and also adventure, stopping also at Palo Duro Canyon to investigate professional opportunities in connection with the (largely amateur) summertime pageantry there.
Anyway, when she landed a role and I first saw the Country Squire Playbill, the audience warm-up entertainment ensemble pictured on the back did not seem to merit much more than a glance. Little could I have imagined a twilight-zone-like manifestation there that would not come to light, as more or less a remembrance of Renée, until some 37 years later when I pulled from storage and perused that Playbill among the items from Renée bound for donation to her now-adult daughter.
I had long known of western Texas’s special status among the regions of Texas as a location well-endowed with exceptional young people – as might be expected in the state’s region of statistically highest average per-capita income. And, without exception I expect that Renée almost certainly met and would have been impressed with the Country Rogues whom she followed on stage. But to imagine that she would meet a person among that group, on a comedy stage, whose destiny from that point, like hers, would also end in unimagined, career ending tragedy … ?
Such a person is noted in the picture by a blue star … the Texas Tech student who achieved his goal of graduating there and eventually joining NASA in the astronaut corps where, as USAF Colonel Rick Husband, Commander of mission STS-107, he died with his crew in the Feb. 1, 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia return-to-Earth entry catastrophe.