Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
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Willard E. Misfeldt (1930-2017): Professor at BGSU active in local theater


BOWLING GREEN — Willard E. Misfeldt, a retired Bowling Green State University professor of art history who helped bring renewed interest to a 19th-century French painter, died April 18 in Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo. He was 87.



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He suffered apparent cardiac arrest while being treated for injuries from an April 2 car crash in Bowling Green, said Denise Niese, a close friend and executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. He was a former member of the governing board.

He retired from BGSU in 1998 but taught part-time until 2001. He arrived at BGSU in 1967 after a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. He’d earlier taught art at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn.

He had former BGSU students he corresponded with — hand-written letters — for nearly 40 years, Mrs. Niese said.

“He enjoyed watching his students succeed and enjoyed hearing about their lives,” she said. “He was extremely sensitive once you got to know him; otherwise, you would think he was a curmudgeon. He was a very kind man.”

His research interest — and the subject of his doctoral dissertation — was painter James Jacques Tissot.

Mr. Misfeldt wrote the catalog for a touring exhibition of Tissot prints, which visited several museums including the Detroit Institute of Arts. He delivered lectures at the Louvre in Paris and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Louise Bruner, The Blade’s longtime art editor, wrote that such scholarship as Mr. Misfeldt’s was a major stimulus to the rediscovery of Tissot.

He was a former president of Black Swamp Players in Bowling Green and directed a comedy the company staged in April, 2016. He designed sets for the Black Swamp troupe, but also for the stage at BGSU, and other theater companies in northwest Ohio. He acted in To Kill A Mockingbird at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre. The Blade review in 1999 of A Trip to Bountiful at the Village Players in Toledo said that Mr. Misfeldt had “done a fine job of fitting actor to part and designing spare but effective sets.”

He’d been helping plan a 50th anniversary celebration for Black Swamp Players.

Mr. Misfeldt received a lifetime achievement award in 2016 from the Ohio Community Theater Association.

He was born March 14, 1930, to Jennie and Edward Misfeldt and grew up in northern Minnesota. He was a 1948 graduate of Aitkin High School and was a stateside Army veteran. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His doctorate was from Washington University.

Mr. Misfeldt returned to Minnesota at least annually, and was like a grandfather to the children of his niece Diane Sentyrz. Still, Bowling Green was home.

“This is where he was Willard,” his niece said. “He could be himself in Bowling Green.”

There are no immediate survivors.

Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday in Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home, Bowling Green, with visitation after 1 p.m.

Tributes are suggested to the Friends of the Wood County Committee on Aging or the Black Swamp Players.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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