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Mitchell McGuire (born Walter) died peacefully and deeply loved at age 85 on 1 February 2022 in Saugerties, New York, from Alzheimer's/Covid. He was born 26 December 1936 in Chicago, Illinois, to Ruth Mildred Casserly and James Edward McGuire.
An actor, writer, director, and producer, Mitch brought his delightfully quirky humor to his work in theater, radio, film, television, and with people. He was fun to be around. Mitch loved comedy and improv and told fabulous stories with characters speaking in funny and surprising dialects. Bedtime stories were magical for his kids.
In December 1978, Mitch co-founded the Manhattan Punch Line Theatre on Theatre Row with its first play opening on April Fool’s Day 1979. It was a nexus of actors, comedians, writers, and directors that captured the theater scene of the late 1970s and 1980s. It wasn't all easy, but it was exciting, and above all, roaring serious comedy.
Mitch served on the board of directors for AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) for nearly 20 years during which time he held both local and national treasurer positions. He actively championed the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild) merger as he believed in unions for artists and actors and was devoted to their support. Even taking it to the field, softball, of course. He played and coached on the AFTRA-NY/SAG-AFTRA softball team in Central Park for years and was hugely pleased when he was presented a coach/manager of the year award by his fellow players.
Camaraderie on stage and off, he was genial, charming, witty, and had a gift for sports, and words. Does this sound like an Irishman?
Mitch produced over fifty full productions, hundreds of cabaret shows and benefits at the Manhattan Punch Line, and acted on Broadway, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway in productions such as King Lear, Waiting for Lefty, The Male Animal, Oh, Calcutta!, Other People’s Money, and Labor Day. He worked many years as a voiceover talent for products such as Prell and was the voice of Total Cereal for nine years. His film and TV credits include Law and Order, Blue Bloods, over 20 shows on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and several soap operas.
For 57 years Mitch lived in New York City, all but a couple in Manhattan. At age 19, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard (two years service) and was stationed at the Charlevoix Lighthouse north of Traverse City on Lake Michigan. A year later he married Lynne Johnston from Petoskey, Michigan. They settled in Chicago, had three children, Michael, Kelli, and Lauri, and divorced after five years. During that time, he attended the Goodman Theatre dramatics school in Chicago for a year, and with Mitch's parents and brother and sister now all living in San Diego, he headed out West with a desire to go to Hollywood and pursue acting. After three years, he left for New York City and worked hotel jobs until he was able to work in the arts full time.
During the Punchline years, Mitch and modern dancer Cathryn Williams met and fell in love. They were married in 1982 by Yeolde Tradition -One Performance Only- at their country house in High Woods, Saugerties, NY. They had two children, Katie and Brendan. Mitch had wide-ranging interests, he was a gardener and kept their upper Eastside apartment backyard patio an oasis from city life. He researched his Irish family roots, loved to read biographies of actors, directors, and others, was a singer and especially fond of Ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra.
About ten years ago, Mitch was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease yet the cognitive impact was slow to manifest. He was active and engaged up until the last six months or so. Mitch said "this diagnosis meant the end of my acting and directing work. So, what's an energetic, creative guy to do?" With help from care companions Flo Ankah, Monika Rynkiewicz and Robin Bobbé, and vocal coach Sallyann Swarm, and many programs that support people with dementia, Mitch wrote down his stories, he made drawings, he painted, and he sang in The Unforgettables Chorus. To hear Mitch sing My Wild Irish Rose, go to the 4:00 minute mark https://tinyurl.com/26m9tzum.
Mitch and Cathy's relationship grew richer over the dementia years, he often would say to others, "I don't know what I'd do without her,” and, “[She’s my] My one true love." To Cathy he would say, "I love you more." They were married on 25 September 1982 at their country house on Dutchtown Road in Saugerties, NY, almost 40 years ago.
Mitch was predeceased by his parents, his sister, Dianne (McGuire) Kenealy, and brother, James "Jim" McGuire. He is survived by his wife, Cathryn Williams, and their children, Katie McGuire of Los Angeles, and Brendan McGuire of Oakland, CA; children from his first marriage, Michael (Jill) McGuire of Grayling, MI, Kelli (Kerry) Blaser of Palm Bay, FL, Lauri (Scott) Norris of Traverse City, MI; six grandchildren, Shana, Bobby, Leah, Gabe, and Courtney and Ashley; and ten great-grandchildren, Caiden, Connor, Faith, Vayda, Mable, Violet, Tobey, Jacob, Ensley, and Ember.
A Celebration of Life service for Mitch is scheduled for June 26, 2022 at 12 noon at the Seamon-Wilsey Funeral Home in Saugerties, NY. See the bottom of this page for details. Following the service, he will be interred at the Woodstock Artists Cemetery in Woodstock, NY. For additional life information about Mitch: http://www.mitchellmcguire.com/.
For those who wish, please consider donations to these organizations that support Alzheimer's and dementia programs: CaringKindNYC.org, ArtsAndMinds.org, or the ActorsFund.org.
In Mitch's words, "Thanks for stoppin' by and drop in again!”