Reverend Norman Gano, on May 29, 2012, crossed through the veil to continue his eternal life with his Lord. Still on this side are his wife, Fay, and their combined eight children, plus a “bonus” daughter. They have eleven grand-children, thirteen great-grandchildren, and nineteen unexpected, treasured souls who resided with them for a few months up to six years. Norman’s heart held great wit, wisdom, and deep compassion.
Norm grew up in Spokane Valley in the home his grandpa built in 1914. After attending Whitworth University, he left our valley and attended three seminaries, earning the Master of Divinity Degree - Berkley Baptist (American Baptist) Divinity School in California; Crozier Theological Seminary in New York; and Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he was also asked to be technical director in their inaugural religious drama department.
His Whitworth background came forward for this Baptist preacher when he was “hired” as the pastor of three different Presbyterian churches over a period of years in New York State. He was also invited to do some teaching in New Jersey with Presbyterian missionary appointees before they embarked on their first assignments.
He rebuilt a 100 year-old barn in upstate New York into a summer stock theatre, casting shows with candidates from the mission fields and from the Presbyterian Outreach of nearby states.
He pastored twelve churches in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Washington, and Idaho. Then, after retirement in 1992, he served as interim pastor for six more churches in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
He and his wife worked together in their calling to meet their family, missionary, and community needs, combining the two careers of church and theatre. Norm wrote: “At Whitworth, I once had a small part in a play. Maybe that started it. Then, my second seminary, Crozier, near Philadelphia, was located close to a well-known theatre company, ‘Hedgerow’. I became a graduate student of both schools, and, from then on, I have served my parallel callings together in each of my pastorates. God’s leading me to ministry through pastoring and theatre has been my life.” As just one example, he taught acting classes in the Theatre department at the University of Wisconsin (at Parkside) for seven years while continuing his missionary work in the outskirts of Milwaukee, which started by baptizing congregants in a swimming pool of an apartment complex. Norm and Fay stayed, the congregation grew, until they built a permanent church building. He felt that both theatre and church are spiritual media. Both strive to ameliorate human struggles and suffering; though many plays fail to achieve that, as do many churches, unfortunately.
Over time, Norm directed and played many roles, including acting professionally in off-Broadway productions, CBS and NBC television, and in Hollywood movies filmed in New York and Boston. He played in Kurt Weill’s “Three Penny Opera”, in summer stock companies, and ran his own repertory company. Norm’s workshop “An Approach to the Art of Living” subtitled, “An Approach to the Art of Acting,” drew diverse participants from housewives, college professors, and many professional actors. He was the Technical Director and Instructor of the Religious Drama department at Union Theological Seminary; developed the Theatre Department in Barrington College, Rhode Island; he was the Teaching Director of Community Theatres in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Washington, he instructed acting at the Performing Arts Center Theatre School and was an acting coach for the Performing Arts Center Players in Wisconsin. He was also active as both director and actor in Spokane Civic Theatre, first appearing there in the 1940’s. Since retirement, when he moved back to Spokane Valley to the house where he grew up, he directed and performed in many productions there.
Norman Gano’s benevolent heart and twinkling eyes helped spread God’s love and compassion wherever he went. All who touched Norm’s life enriched him, as did his deep caring for them.
A celebration of Norman Gano’s life will be held on June 16, 2012, at 1:00 p.m., at Spokane Valley Baptist Church, 1222 S. McDonald Road, Spokane Valley. Norm was concerned with the hunger experienced daily by children, parents, and elderly in our Spokane Valley, and the severe budget cut-backs suffered by those trying to help. He asked, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to Meals on Wheels, Spokane Valley Chapter, 321 S. Dishman-Mica Road, Spokane Valley.
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