Tom Powers loved acting so much, he left the Midwest for Los Angeles to make a name for himself in the business.
And he was getting a foothold.
He studied at Pasadena Playhouse alongside Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman. He had an audition with Natalie Wood. He earned some small parts.
But, it turned out he loved another role more — that of a family man.
Powers left Hollywood so he could provide a more stable life for his wife and kids.
He ended up in the Tri-Cities, and it was the community’s gain.
Powers, who died Sunday at 84 after battling Alzheimer’s disease, became a giant of the local performing arts scene.
“He was a friend to everybody,” said Michael Wutzke, general manager of Richland Players. “He quickly recognized people and welcomed them, making sure they continued to participate throughout the years. He was an advocate for the arts.”
He was a friend to everybody. He quickly recognized people and welcomed them, making sure they continued to participate throughout the years. He was an advocate for the arts.
Michael Wutzke, Richland Players
Powers was born and raised in Iowa. After high school, he joined the Army and served in the Korean War.
He spent a few years in college and then tried his fortunes in Hollywood.
After grinding away for a few years, he made his way to Washington, settling in the Tri-Cities.
He quickly put his talent to work in the local arts scene.
His first show with Richland Players was Bus Stop in 1961. He went on to act in, direct and produce scores and scores of local shows, everything from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown to Inherit the Wind.
He was a pillar of Richland Players, helping lead and shape the organization, which was going through a renewal after its founding in 1944.
He also worked with other local groups, including Richland Light Opera, now called Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre.
A few years ago, the Richland Arts Commission honored him with an Art Recognition Award.
Because of him, our community is a better place in which to live, work and visit.
Richard Reuther, Richland Arts Commission
“Because of him, our community is a better place in which to live, work and visit,” Richard Reuther, chairman of the commission, told the Herald at the time.
Wutzke said Powers was skilled on stage and behind the scenes.
He also got that Richland Players was about making personal connections as much as making art. “He understood what Richland Players is about. We’re a social organization that puts on theater,” Wutzke said. “He was a father figure, bringing all of us together. He understood it was about bringing people together.”
Powers started out in the Tri-Cities as a radio deejay and then worked as a bank official. He eventually got into real estate.
He and his first wife, Arline, divorced, and Powers went onto to marry Lois Powers. They were together for more than 28 years.
He leaves behind five children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
Lois Powers admired her husband as an artist. On stage, he was present, passionate, a perfectionist, she said.
“When he took a role, he presented it as best he could,” she said.
And he was a wonderful husband and dad.
“He was so dedicated,” Lois Powers said. “He was nurturing. He was strict. He expected a lot, and when you expect a lot you usually get a lot. His children loved him dearly. As I did. As I do.”
A memorial service is planned at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at South Hills Church in Kennewick.