Feb. 23, 1950 – Sept. 22, 2017
“The object of art is to give life a shape.” - Jean Anouilh
It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Kimberly John DeLong from our world to a larger, grander stage on Sept. 22, 2017. He was 67 years old. Though his spirit never surrendered, complications from pancreatic cancer ultimately took him away. He was heroic in his bravery to the last and will be missed beyond measure.
Kimberly was a fourth generation Montanan, born February 23, 1950 in Kalispell, to Violet Frank and Donald Eugene DeLong. He was the second of six children. He was foremost an artist and lifelong arts advocate; a professional actor, the artistic director of the Montana Shakespeare Company, a college professor, fight choreographer, writer and mentor. He was also a husband, father, brother and friend to many. He leaves behind his devoted wife of 26 years, Martha Sprague (Helena, MT) and three amazing daughters, Kisha Marie DeLong (Cleveland, OH), Tahnani Michelle DeLong (Phoenix, AZ) and Sarah Isabella MacKenzie DeLong (Helena, MT). Additionally he leaves behind siblings Steven Russell DeLong and Terry Miethe (both of Spokane, WA) and Shawn DeLong Traylor (Simpsonville, SC).
Kim was raised primarily in Spokane, WA. As a boy he was severely dyslexic, though they did not have a name for it at the time. His dyslexia was crippling in terms of 1950’s academic achievement and his teacher thought Kim should be admitted to a school for the blind, despite the fact that he excelled in sports. This forced Kim to look at the world in different, non-linear ways and necessitated inventing non-traditional ways to excel in his studies.
After finishing at North Central High School, he attended Eastern Washington University. Kim grew up playing baseball and while at Eastern was a four-year letterman on the varsity baseball team. He was known for his speed in stealing second base and was an invaluable center fielder who loved snagging virtually impossible fly balls.
In 1972, he became the first in his family to graduate college. With a degree in Theatre, Kim received a dozen offers to attend graduate school in Acting. He decided on Cornell University in New York. With his new wife, Betty Koenig, they headed to Ithaca where Kimberly trained in classical theatre. During this time, he continued to play baseball and was offered a contract with the winter farm team for the San Diego Padres. He declined the offer so that he wouldn’t forfeit his MFA degree, and after finishing at Cornell in 1974, they moved to Denver in expectation of their first child, Kisha. Kim moved the family again to Anchorage, Alaska where he began teaching theatre at the University of Alaska for four years. A second daughter, Tahnani, was born and shortly thereafter the family moved to Phoenix, AZ where Kim continued to teach for the next four years at Arizona State University in Tempe.
After his divorce, Kim returned to Montana in 1989 with his great love, Martha Sprague, whom he met while in Arizona. He served as the Chair of the Theatre Dept. at Carroll College in Helena for 16 years. There he enhanced its programming, faculty and facilities and eventually became Fine Arts Chair. In 1995, his third daughter, Bella was born.
Kim was a brilliant, inspirational teacher who received awards for his teaching pedagogy. He taught his students how to shape space/time with intent and how to translate their ideas into form. He challenged them to make clear, purposeful artistic choices, both onstage and in their lives and hoped to empower them to achieve their potential. He directed students in a wide variety of productions and took them to perform original plays in New York City, and also to theatre festivals in the Rocky Mountain region.
In 1997, Kim and Martha co-founded the Montana Shakespeare Company and produced “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as its inaugural production. It is a testament to Kim’s determination, that despite his dyslexia, he became a master of Shakespeare with some of the world’s most sophisticated language. He also had an amazing memory for both history and language and could recite classical monologues verbatim which he had learned 40 years prior.
Over the course of 20 years, MSC rose from humble beginnings to an annual summer repertory company, bringing professional actors from across the country to to perform with Montana talent under summer starry skies. In 2005, Kim departed Carroll to focus his energies on MSC and screenwriting. He not only directed two classical productions each summer, but also built the sets, secured funding, trained the actors and occasionally acted in the productions as well.
Kim was a dynamic performer and was a member of two professional acting unions – Actors Equity Association (stage) and the Screen Actors Guild (film). He worked in theatre from coast to coast and also in film and TV. He had a powerful, larger-than-life stage presence with a rich, resonant voice and the fluidity of motion to rival a professional dancer. He also studied fencing and stage combat with world renowned experts such as Raoul Sudre and B.H. Barry and became a master fight choreographer. In 2016 he performed in his final Shakespeare as King Lear. During his lifetime he was involved with over 150 productions.
Kim had an indefatigable energy, strength and courage. He was grounded, fearless and always working on his next project. He was an adamant believer that the arts are the last best hope for unifying humanity.
Most of all, Kim loved his family. We extend our deepest gratitude for the compassionate care and support from the many relatives, friends, and physicians who helped us along this journey. A memorial service is being planned for Saturday, November 4, 2017.
“He was a man. Take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”