The wonderful life of William “Gayland” Spaulding came to a peaceful end on November 8. He was surrounded by his sister and close friends along with the caring staff at Marshall Comfort Care.
The following life story highlights are Gayland’s own recollections as told to an interviewer earlier this fall.
He was born to Ishmael and Marjorie Spaulding on October 14, 1947 on a 120-acre self-sustaining farm near Little York, Illinois. Having a sister who loved to help work the farm left Gayland ample time to enjoy his favorite pursuits: reading and playing the piano. He began piano lessons early in grade school, and by high school, when told he had surpassed the skills of his instructor, he continued his study with a professor at Monmouth College. It is then, he said, that he really learned to PLAY the piano, well enough with a Chopin piece, to place 1st in statewide music contests.
After high school he was happy to be accepted at every college he applied for, and he chose Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri to work with a professor who expanded his musical repertoire into more contemporary genres.
In his sophomore year, while working on an overture to be played against an orchestra for a senior recital, he was introduced to theatre. “It sucked me right in,” he said. He loved it so much he dropped piano as his major and turned totally toward theatre, ending up with a bachelor’s degree in both music and theatre.
In his senior year, the theatre department needed someone to costume a show, but had no one. Although he had never designed anything and did not know how to sew, he did it anyway, designing and building the entire show.
Also that year, a visiting professor from Western Michigan University invited Gayland to assist in designing costumes while working toward his Masters degree at WMU. Around the time he was awarded that degree, he was offered the University’s Theatrical Costume Designer position, teaching that discipline along with Interpersonal Communications for the next four years.
While there, he also worked with the Kalamazoo Civic theatre and other regional stage companies as a designer and actor. While performing at the Red Barn Theater in Saugatuck, he met David King, the man he would happily share his life with for 36 years.
Together they decided to quit their jobs and move to NYC and see what the acting scene was like. There, Gayland found work fabric shopping, researching, and costume fitting for a couple of off-Broadway designers. Soon, someone introduced him to the garment industry, and before long he was assistant designer of sportswear at Ann Klein, one of NYC’s major design houses.
A headhunter lured him to Dallas, where he designed contemporary suits for men and white Sunday suits for women. He longed, however, for a Masters of Fine Arts degree and to return to theatrical costume design. He earned that degree at Southern Methodist University and furthered his design aspirations at the Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, working with renowned Costume Designer Emerita, Deborah Dryden.
When the luster of Dallas wore off, they headed to Chicago, where, because of his resume, he had no trouble finding work as a theatrical designer. Most memorable to him was the Court Theatre, the Tony Award winning professional theatre company in Hyde Park, one of the major small theaters in the city.
While asked to design again at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he was approached by Susan Hilferty, the costume designer of Broadway’s “Wicked,” to join her in designing costumes for the revival of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.
Back in Chicago and frustrated with low budget/high expectation producers, he decided to switch gears and sell upper-end real estate. Around this time they were introduced to a custom-framing studio in Marshall whose owner pointed out a house that they instantly saw as their retirement home. Soon, Marshall became home to them both, where they became part of the cultural fabric of the town. The year after they remodeled the home, they were invited to include it in the Marshall Home Tour. They happily obliged.
In recent years, he advised Randy Lake in the development of a board of directors for The Great Escape Stage Company (GESC), ensuring its ongoing success, ending his tenure on the board as President Emeritus. Over the years, Gayland continued designing, directing, and acting in numerous local plays. Last summer, he directed the GESC’s production of Mothers and Sons. He was also a member of the Franke Center Development and Franke Scholarship Award committees.
Gayland will be remembered for his intuitive and meticulous design sense, his intricate cross stitch, his colorful socks, his love of a good book, his loyalty to his friends, and his passion for Broadway and all things theatre.
Gayland was preceded in death by his partner, David King; his brother-in-law, Dale Sample; and his parents, Ishmael and Marjorie (Campbell) Spaulding. He is survived by his sister, Jeannine Sample of Eudora, KS; nephew, Kristopher Sample of Los Angeles, CA; and best friend, Patrice Marquardt of Marshall.
The family would like to thank Marshall Comfort Care staff and aides, along with Katie and Jessica of Centrica Care Navigators for their loving attention to Gayland.
Per his wishes, there will be no formal memorial service. On December 18, from 2-5pm, a celebration of his life will be held at GESC.
Please consider a memorial gift to The Great Escape Stage Company, 110 E. Michigan Ave., P.O. Box 621, Marshall, MI 49068 in his honor.
Arrangements were entrusted to Kempf Family Funeral and Cremation Services.
Condolences can be left to the family at http://www.kempffuneralhome.com