In Memory of Bob Furino

Starlighters II Theatre mourns one of the theatre's founding members!

Many current and former Starlighters thespians are shook up over the recent passing of Robert Furino (Bob).

Bob was heavily involved in set building, directing, acting, developing the Young People's Theatre (YPT) and so much more! Most recently he taught the theatre's acting and director classes alongside Jan Cratsenberg.

He has touched so many lives in the Jones County community and we would like to share those stories with everyone. Starlighters is asking for any photos and/or stories you would like to share about Bob. You can submit them below.

The theatre plans to hold a memorial date yet to be determined.

Bob will be with all of us and his memory will live on forever through the ongoing life of the theatre. We ask for your thoughts and prayers to be with his family and the many friends that he made along life's way.

From Ron Ketelsen

Startlighters II has lost a legend! Bob Furino and I first met in 1973. We worked together at Shannon Elementary School, then at Carpenter Elementary for several years. However, Bob and I were more than work colleagues. We shared the love of theater and in 1974, with a little nudging, Bob and I started Starlighters II Community Theater. Bob and I worked tirelessly to produce productions at the Monticello Community Building, then we took theater on the road. Who will ever forget "Simba" our big brown van that was used to move the theater set pieces from location to location? (In fact, Bob, Anna Mary, Donna Oltman, and I almost got arrested one night for making too much noise while painting that van. We took productions back and forth between Anamosa and Monticello until, in 1988, we decided it was time to buy a building and create a permanent theater home. We were visionaries then and worked all hours of the night to turn a hardware store into a theater. Bob and I spent many long nights together building sets, painting signs, selling tickets, hanging lights, and designing promotions for upcoming productions. In fact one night, we were working very late on a set and I asked Bob to hand me the drill. He did, but I didn't have it in my hand and it went dill bit first - completely through my foot and broke off. Bob took me to the Emergency Room and somehow, they managed to cut my shoe off and remove the drill bit from my foot. Bob was a tremendous actor and I had the privilege to act alongside him in a number of productions. I also directed many productions that Bob was in as well. Who will ever forget his performance with Shawn Carr in "The Foreigner" and his dramatic performance (also with Shawn) in "Ordinary People." Both are amazing actors and the highlight of my theater career to work with such talented actors! Both Academy Award worthy! Over time, my career took me in another direction and I left the theater. However, Bob stayed on for many years afterward. He left his mark on so many areas of Startlighters II Theater. Bob and I kept in touch even though I moved to California and later to New York. We often called each other to catch up on the latest theater news. Yes, we have lost a great friend, actor, director, mentor, writer and so much more. Take your final bow, my friend! You deserve a standing ovation! Your forever friend, Ron Ketelsen

From Jan Hoag

For those of us that have been with Starlighters II since the very beginning in the 1970's, the loss of both Tom Hoffman and now Bob bring back so many memories of those early years! Now Esther, Tom, Emil and Bob are together and I'm sure producing magical performances. So many memories of those early days directing, performing, traveling to the Allerton with our roadshows bring many smiles along with tears. We believed in live theater and did everything and anything to be successful! Bob's contribution should never be forgotten and his wonderful friendship will always be remembered.

From Elaine (Dailey) Mattingly

Bob was such a patient, kind and ethical presence, no matter the roll he was filling at Startlighters. And, because he had so many talents and capabilities, so many benefitted from his hard work and dedication. I especially enjoyed the play reading and discussion sessions at his cabin—a place where those involved could relax and also let their passions for all things theatre be shared and known.

From Emily Burds

As many would agree, Bob was larger than life. However, in my life, he was massive. I would not be who I am today without him, nor would I honestly still be standing here at all. To me, and so many, he was "home" - he, and the theatre he helped create, were a safe space to run to when everything else seemed to be going wrong. A place where the burdens of your world could be left at the door. A place where you could be whoever you wanted, or needed to be, and where magic still existed. He was a teacher of life, not just acting. And he believed in me, and all of his students, without question or hesitation. I am devastated that the world has lost his incredible light, but I know his tremendous legacy will live on in the thousands of lives he touched through his teaching and talent. So fly high Bob, and know we'll keep the show going down here.

From Dawn (First) Chapman

For me Bob was always the Papa Bear of Starlighters Theatre. As I grew up in the theatre, he was synonymous with it, for me. I can't imagine one without the other. I remember one time when we were going to have a cast part up at his cabin on Lake Delhi and I showed up early (think I was in high school at the time, either way I was much younger) and we struggled to get that boat out of the funky boathouse it was in. It took forever, but finally we succeeded and we went water skiing that day on the lake (though I don't remember the boat going very fast, so not the easiest - lol) but quite the different cast party from the norm. One of the few times we didn't go to McOtto's - lol. I have so many fond memories of Bob, but for some reason that is the one that popped in my head. He always brought the warmth and made the theatre feel like home. He was a mild-mannered but protective father figure and fun-loving friend to me. He will be greatly missed!!! :(

From Robert Kurt

Bob was a great mentor. I always enjoyed his comments after a performance. He loved the theater and everything about it. He will be missed!

From Gary Hatcher

Bob directed and guided the productions with grace, skill and love of theatre. I have many cherished memories working with Bob in the productions in which I was blessed to preform. May the Holy Angels Greet Thee and May Light Perpetual Shine Upon Thee.

From Jeremy Smith

I met Bob 29 years ago, when I wondered into the theater to let Starlighters know I was going to be in shows there. Bob took me under his wing and provided me a safe place for the next 4 years. He took me to my first professional show (The Secret Garden), gave me my first big role (Bridge to Terabithia), came to my graduation, and my first college show. Most importantly he helped me to be ok with being me. It took me a long time to be comfortable with me, but I credit Bob for laying the ground work. Time and distance, caused us to lose touch but I always felt good knowing that he was out there helping and guiding other loud, creative kids find their way. Thanks Bob!! I will always be grateful for your place in my story, and know you’ll be watching over as I continue to write it.

From Val Hobbs

From Paint your Wagon to his wonderful turn as El Gallo in The Fantasticks he was true to every part and every thing he did. I have very fond memories floating off of Breezy Point at midnight running lines and watching Fireflies. He was a consummate teacher and actor. He will be greatly missed. Now he is a different type of Starlighter. Break a leg Bob!

From Jennifer Engelbart

Thanks to Bob, Young Players Theater introduced many young people to the craft of acting and the magic of theater. My experience in How to Eat Like a Child with Bob at the helm was such an empowering experience as a young person. He taught us how to shine in our roles and as a cast. If you’ve worked with Bob, then this comes as no surprise. In every role Bob took on, he made others shine. He has left us too soon, but his legacy is the light that will continue to shine and live on through us all.

From John Marlin

I believe I was in 6th grade when my brother wanted to audition for a part in "Once Upon a Playground" at the Starlighters II Community Theatre in Anamosa. My parents made me go with him so he wouldn't have to walk there and home alone. I was annoyed, but did what I was told. When it was time for auditions to start Bob assigned parts for a reading of the script. The group of kids there to audition wasn't enough for every part, so Bob asked me if I would join. I resisted at first, saying I was only there to walk with my brother, not audition for anything. Bob pressed harder, but just framed it as a favor to him to fill a reading spot -- no pressure. So, I relented. Besides, as a kid, I was never one to turn down an opportunity to help an adult who asked. I read the part(s) requested, then walked home with my brother without giving it much thought. The next day (maybe two days later) Bob calls our house. I answered and upon hearing who it was I said I'd get my brother (for the younger crowd who may read this, we didn't have our own phones back then. No cell phones. Just rotary-dial landlines in the house). Anyway, Bob stopped me and said he called to talk to me. Funny ... my first thought was I was in trouble for something. What had I done wrong that he calling me about? (Nothing actually, but that was a paranoia I carried with me through childhood and into my young adult years -- I don't know why). Bob proceeded to offer me one of the lead roles in the play -- The Boy with the Funny Nose. I turned it down. My brother, I told him again, was the one who wanted a part, not me. He said (and I've never forgetton this), "You're care for your brother is admirable, and impressive at your age, but I want you to take just a moment to not worry about your brother. Trust that I've got you're brother -- let me take care of him -- and really consider what I am asking YOU. Will YOU be my Boy with the Funny Nose? I still didn't understand how walking my brother to the theater and home had gotten me into this, but I agreed to take the part. I was scared to death. I can't recount to you exactly how it all came to pass over the next several weeks, but Bob Furino took a scared, socially awkward, 6th grader and helped him overcome his stagefright to become a (still socially awkward 😉) lover of the stage and all things theatre. In the years that followed I performed in several other productions (both Community Theatre and High School productions), and worked backstage in several more. Eventually I went on to teach drama to youth groups and as a high school course, and directed two high school productions. To this day, I still use the theatre techniques and the life lessons I was taught by Bob Furino, every single day of my life. "Once Upon A Playground," opened up a part of me I never knew existed. "Once Upon A Playground," introduced me to my first girlfriend (oh, middle school dating...lol). "Once Upon A Playground," I found my voice and the joy of sharing it with others. As a pastor I've moved my family around the country more than a few times. It has made it difficult to keep up with the friends, family, and mentors I've been blessed with throughout my years. I don't stay in touch as much as I'd like or should. But several years ago, when Bob's father died, I was able to be in Anamosa to attend the visitation. It had been YEARS, but when I started to introduce myself, Bob cut me off with a big hug and telling me how good it was to see me again. He was going to be burying his dad, but looking at me he had the biggest smile, perhaps, that I have ever seen on anyone. He asked what I'd been up to and said, "Please tell me you're still doing theatre!" I told him I was teaching drama, and he begged for all the details on the production I had just recently finished directing. The sparkle in that man's eye! The joy he had in the endeavors and successes of a long-former theatre student. It was a profound moment ... the kind that screams to you of it's specialness, and inspires you to want to be THAT kind of person in someone else's life (even though you feel completely inept for the task). I wish I had been able to see Bob again after that -- to have done better at staying in touch. But I am glad that I had that meeting, that I took the opportunity to tell him thank you for everything, and to give him the credit he deserved for the impact he had on my life. "Once Upon A Playground," Bob Furino saw something special in me, and he changed my life forever. Thank God for Bob Furino.

From Robin Thayer

My 6th grade class at Carpenter Elementary School were blessed to have Mr. Furino as our teacher, and I believe we were his first class out of college. He was an amazing teacher, and he made a huge difference in my life and I suspect my classmates as well. His Woofie awards are legendary! I feel so blessed to have had him in my life! Thoughts and prayers for his family.

From Ramunda Wears

Deepest sadness for one of the original members. So creative and great to work with. Miss you!