The curtain has descended on the last act of the life of Billy Hermanson on January 9, 2021. He was born Carl William Hermanson on April 10, 1928. The son of Carl Albert Hermanson from Sweden and Stephanie Emily Nickles of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and brother to his beautiful sister, Exbeta Jane Hermanson Zwick, all deceased.
Services for Billy were held at St. Charles Borromeo, and a funeral mass took place in his hometown of Sheridan, Wyoming. He was buried in the family plot at Sheridan Municipal Cemetery, overlooking the beautiful Bighorn Mountains.
During his childhood, he spent summers at the family cabins with friends and entertainers. After 32 years, he moved on to Denver, San Bernardino, San Francisco, Belmont, San Mateo, Burlingame, and Half Moon Bay, California, before settling in his final home, Portland, Oregon.
Billy taught for 52 years, the final 25 years at Concordia University in Portland. Prior work experience includes the State Taxation Department in Denver, Colorado, a caseworker in Denver County, as well as working at the Federal Service Commission in San Francisco, California.
His first love was the Catholic Church, and he held tight to his faith his entire life. He expressed his devotion as an altar boy, and later as a seminarian, St. Thomas Seminary, in First and Second Philosophy.
Billy attended Holy Name Grade School, and Sheridan High School. He then received his degree from Regis University in Denver, and finished his graduate degree at Denver University. He also studied at San Francisco State, and Portland State University.
From the time he was a child, Billy was in “show business.” The Sisters of Charity saw the potential of his quick wit and stage presence and put it to use by casting him in solo monologues and theatre presentations. These grew into his high school years in the same manner, culminating in the final senior production lead. He was awarded a scholarship in drama at the University of Wyoming. His first production was a role in Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” with Hollywood personality, Basil Rathbone.
Regis University (College) gave Billy another chance to apply his talents in productions featuring a traveling group that entertained in local hospitals, and Fitzimmons and Lowry Air Force Bases. In the 1950s, he was accepted by Charles O’Carey, New York entrepreneur for the Bar Harbor Playhouse, Maine, where many Hollywood and theatre names starred in and applied their talents to the productions.
Mr. Hermanson was associated as an actor, director, designer (sets, lighting, and and costumes,) for over 75 productions. He was involved with high school, college, community, stage, and TV presentations, with some children’s productions throughout his career. A career which spanned several states: Colorado, Wyoming, California, and Montana. His production of “The Flying Prince,” by Aurand Harris, was televised by KGHL, Billings, Montana, with a loan of costumes from the University of Denver from the premiere at Hawaii University. The Sheridan Junior College students were actors, crew, and underwritten by the Sheridan Community Theatre.
Billy studied under several Pulitzer Prize winners in modern theatre techniques, Marc Connelly, of the Green Pastures 1930; Mary Chase, of “Harvey,” both movie and stage fame; and Norris Houghton, author of “The Moscow Rehearsals,” and owner of the Phoenix Theatre, New York.
After his theatre experiences, he studied for his graduate degree at Portland State University for an art degree in Sculpture. He was fortunate enough to have Frederic Littman, who was from Hungary and then Paris, where he was honored at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, and exhibited at the Salon d’Automne. He entered the Académie Ranson in 1931, and became a student assistant to Charles Malfray. At about the same time that he achieved full professorship in 1934, Littman received critiques from Aristide Maillol, an indication that his work had earned the respect of highly esteemed artists.
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His third year, he became a student of Manuel Izquierdo, from Spain and a student of Frederic Littman. An exceptional Portland sculptor and printmaker, and one of the essential figures of Portland’s mid-century art scene, died July 17, at 83. Izquierdo had been ill for several years.
Izquierdo made some of the most lyrical sculptures and sturdy prints of his generation. He’s most notable for his abstract, organic sculptural forms, and a passionate zeal informed by a heartening back story: As a refugee who fled Spain after the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Izquierdo overcame dire poverty to craft a truly American story of renewal in the Northwest.
“He did what real artists are supposed to do, which was to discover and develop himself in relation to the world, and create something unique,” says artist, George Johanson, who knew Izquierdo for decades, beginning from the time they were students at the Museum Art School, now the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Izquierdo’s age has been listed as anywhere between 83 and 86. His social security card lists his year of birth as 1925, though his daughter, Sara Izquierdo, says no one, including her father, knows the accurate date. The tumult of his escape from Spain as an adolescent, and the subsequent frantic years, dulled clarity on this matter, she says.
But such strange intrigue seems to fit the amazing life of Izquierdo, a bespectacled, epicurean figure in a scene of local artists populated by hearty northwesterners and politically active expatriates from the east coast and abroad.
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Over the 52 years of teaching, Billy Hermanson was involved in all areas of speech, theatre, English, and art. Many of his students have achieved high levels of competence as TV, stage and movie stars, authors, artists, movie directors, Academy Awards and Johannes Factotum. Through Facebook, he has been able to communicate easily with former students in all areas of the arts. They, in turn, update all their achievements through the internet.
Billy’s last years, suffering from arthritis, he would thank all those friends who have faithfully attended to him. All of them made his life enjoyable, even though he was ready for the last hurdle of coming to terms with the end of life and looking forward to the afterlife, where we all come together in peace and harmony, and meet our creator. It was a very happy thought, and what we are all made to experience.
He would point out the number of wonderful priests, nuns, and professional people who have influenced his life. He was appreciative of their friendship through the years, and also of the new people that came into his life. In particular, the Holy Name sisters, especially Sister Margaret Sullivan, who called daily, and visited with him until the end. Also, his restauranteur and chef friend, Stephen Emerson Gravelle, from the last 45 years, came from the Bay Area to take care of his needs for the last five years.
Uncle Billy, as he was called, loved the care, and thought he was enjoying gourmet cooking daily, comparing it to the finest restaurants. This care also made it possible to stay in his home in Portland, Oregon. Billy counted his blessings for the friendship and sacrifice of his friend, Stephen Emerson, who made it a reality.
Billy is survived by his niece, Osa Lisa Zwick Munos, and nephew, Frederick N. Zwick.
The stanza of the following poem captured Billy’s thoughts about life in general for his friends and students, who sometimes are discouraged that they might not measure up to the life others enjoy in the world. But “being” in this cosmos is reward in itself by glorifying God and doing His will. You were chosen to be in this world, and that is the honor of life bestowed on all of us. Your gems and flowers are never wasted:
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air
I close with a quote from “Catullus 101”: atque in perpetuum frater ave atque val
A modern translation might be, “I salute you…and goodbye.”
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