Edmund Manuel Chavez, 95, passed away Saturday, July 23. His final act was orchestrated with the finesse he exemplified as a manager, theater director, hobbyist and loving husband and father. His was a life in five acts.
Act 1: On Nov. 20, 1926, Ed was born in San Antonio, Texas, the third child of Edward and Estella Chavez. Despite the Great Depression, his childhood was happy. He loved going to baseball games and then running home to listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio. A gifted tenor, he loved opera from an early age.
Act 2: In 1944, Ed graduated from high school, joined the Navy and served in WWII. His time in the Pacific shaped him as a young man. He became a quartermaster third class and helped navigate seagoing tugs bringing other ships into port. Despite the war, he loved the United States Navy (although he despised powdered eggs!).
Act 3: With the war over, the GI Bill enabled Ed to go to college. He had his sights set on the diplomatic corps, with degrees in history and Spanish from Southwest Texas Teachers College in San Marcos. He then attended the University of Texas at Austin where he was bitten by the “theater bug” and earned his Master of Fine Arts in 1951. His world changed radically.
He loved working technical theater and directing, but he decided to pursue academics rather than head to Broadway with his classmates. He started his doctorate at Stanford University but found an actual theater job in an Idaho town that he had to look up!
Act 4: One look at Moscow in August 1951 nearly sent him back to Stanford, but he decided to stick it out. Fortunately for the University of Idaho and Moscow, he loved the dramatics department, and there he met senior Joan “Judy” Coble. With a nudge from his department chair, Ed asked Judy out, and in 1953, they were married.
Ed and Judy honeymooned in Ashland where they both worked at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. They continued working in Ashland during the summers while also setting up the UI’s summer theater program. Ed rose through the academic ranks, reaching full professor and directing countless productions. He chaired the Theatre Arts Department for nine years, during which he was instrumental in the building of the Hartung Theater.
In 1973, Ed, Judy and their four children headed to the University of Manchester in England for his sabbatical. In 1977, he was awarded a Fulbright professorship at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. Afterward, Ed returned to the UI to manage the Kibble Dome and teach communications. In 1987, he decided to retire after 36 years at the UI. The university had to hire 22 people to replace him! Besides being designated a professor emeritus and honorary alumnus, Ed received the Idaho Treasure Award in 2006.
Act 5: After retiring, Ed chaired the university’s centennial celebrations in 1989 when he designed the current silver and gold doctoral gowns and tams. He also organized the Moscow centennial a year later. He continued indulging in his hobbies of model-shipbuilding, gardening, woodworking, listening and singing along to his beloved opera, and traveling.
He leaves behind four children, Marc Chavez and wife Anne Harper of Seattle; Joel Chavez of Helena; Todd Chavez and wife Natalie of Boise; Andrea Chavez of Moscow; grandchildren Simon Chavez (Todd and Natalie) and Diana Chavez (Marc and Anne); four nieces; and one nephew. He was preceded in death by his sister Ernestine Stockert, brother Edward Chavez and his beloved Judy.
A celebration of Ed’s life will be held later this year, with suggestions for giving announced then.
Final curtain: “Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” From “Much Ado About Nothing”