Mentor. Service. Beating heart of the arts. For the children. Community before self.
Those are some of the words and phrases those who knew Lois Weber use to describe the former Wauwatosa School Board member and Children's Theatre of Wauwatosa director.
She died Tuesday, but those who knew her say her legacy will live on in Wauwatosa arts traditions.
Weber was a longtime member of the Children's Theatre of Wauwatosa, running props and costumes and directing for more than 40 years. Her experience was felt on the Wauwatosa School Board as well, having served on that board for 37 years. She resigned from the board May 7.
Weber lived her life in Wauwatosa, graduating from Wauatosa High School in 1948. While she was very guarded about her age, her graduation date would put her in the mid 80s.
To those she worked with, Wauwatosa — and the children that lived in the city — were her primary concern.
Sharing the stage
Dale Hidde, former Wauwatosa East Theater director, remembers Weber's influence on every show he put on. He started in 1966, and after every show he would receive a letter or note from Weber helping him and the theater to grow.
Many of Hidde's student actors and directors got their first taste of the stage through the Children's Theatre, where Weber was the general program director. Those students, Hidde said, absolutely loved Weber and would go out of their way to greet her when she showed up for rehearsals.
"I know of no one in all my life that was more student-oriented," Hidde said. "She knew the kids from elementary on to the high school."
After Hidde left, Tom Thaney took over at East and Weber took him under her wing. He regarded her as his mentor.
"She had a keen interest and knew kids from my first day there to my last day," he said. "She never forgot a name or the performance they were in, and knew the families and back stories."
Weber worked multiple roles while directing the Children's Theatre. She ran the costume and prop set, organizing and cataloging the costumes. When she wasn't working costumes, she was directing plays — with up to five casts at a time — bringing acting troupes to Wauwatosa, teaching Saturday classes and organizing ticket sales.
Serving the students
She also sat on the School Board.
To Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Phil Ertl, Weber's name is synonymous with service. Her focus was clear from the first day he met her to the last day she served on the board. It was to put students first.
When a point of contention presented itself, Ertl remembers Weber as someone who would patiently weigh both sides of the issue before making a decision.
School Board President Michael Meier shares Ertl's thoughts. "She respected everyone deeply and she did not prejudge a decision," he added.
When Weber left, she took half the total years' of School Board experience with her. To Ertl and Meier, that is something that can't be replaced. To Ertl, that wisdom helped her respond correctly to concerns and understand the deeper subtleties of how a school district is run.
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