MOUNT CARROLL—Andrew Harmon Bro, Episcopal priest, playwright, co-founder with Donald Mackay of Timber Lake Playhouse summer stock theater, and fundraising executive, died Thursday Jan. 16, 2020, in Freeport. He was 89.
Andrew ("Andy") was born in Chicago (Hyde Park), the youngest of four children, to Albin Carl and Margueritte Harmon Bro, educational missionary parents who had transitioned from their clerical assignments in China to work at the University of Chicago.
Andy began his public schooling in Hyde Park. At the age of 8 he transferred to the Mount Carroll public schools when his father began serving as the president of Frances Shimer Junior College, then located in the same town. He attended two years of high school at the Peddie School in Highstown, N.J., and returned to Mount Carroll, completing high school under a special diploma (signed by his father at Shimer College).
In 1948 he matriculated at Denison University of Granville, Ohio, a member of the Sigma Chi social fraternity. From 1950-51 he took a gap year to join his mother, an established and well-published author, on a circumnavigational trip. Aboard an old Danish cargo ship, they were the only passengers. The trip took them from New Orleans, La., through the Panama Canal, and across the Pacific Ocean to Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Djakarta Indonesia. There they disembarked to meet Andy's father who was on leave from Shimer, assigned as a Foreign Service Reserve officer and cultural attaché at the United States embassy.
Andy stayed on several months to visit the country as his mother collected information to compose her next book. On his own, Andy completed his world tour aboard several more ships, traveling through the Suez Canal, the Strait of Gibraltar, to England, and ultimately returned to New York City by ocean liner.
He graduated Denison University in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Theater. After his graduation, he returned to Chicago to begin a three-year Masters in Theology program at the University of Chicago and also worked with a theater group around Hyde Park for two years. At the request of Bishop Frank Burrill, Diocese of Chicago, Andy spent the third year at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, located in Evanston.
In 1955 he met Adalu "Lu" Carpenter, originally from Las Vegas, Nev. They were married July 28, 1956, at the Church of the Redeemer in Hyde Park and set up house in Evanston as Andy completed his studies. On Dec. 21, 1957, Andy was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church in a ceremony at Saint James Cathedral, Chicago. He remained a canonical resident of the Diocese of Chicago for his clerical tenure. Over his 62 years in the ministry he supplied part-time to a dozen Episcopal parishes in rural Illinois and Iowa and served as interim priest at a number of parishes.
Following his ordination and first job as an assisting priest at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Wilmette, he accepted the position of Chaplain in the fall of 1959 at Shimer College, now a coeducational Great Books college. His initiatives to broaden the speech and theater program at the college resulted in the development of the Green Curtain college club of players.
In time he met Don Mackay, Carroll County landowner, craftsman, and nursery proprietor, and in 1961, with Don's donation of land and lumber, they founded together Timber Lake Playhouse (TLP), a summer stock theater venue two miles outside of Mount Carroll.
With a coterie of dedicated local and regional volunteers and business owners, the theater opened in 1962. Nearly 60 years later TLP is Illinois' oldest continuously operating professional and resident summer stock theater company. Andy served as its principal Artistic and Executive Director during its first two decades and mentored many young theatrical artists, some of whom went on to larger professional careers in acting, directing, stage managing, and technical theater.
Andy and Lu moved with their two young children to Iowa City, Iowa, in 1964 to complete tandem graduate degrees at the University of Iowa. Alongside completing his Master of Fine Arts in playwrighting in 1969, Andy traveled frequently to New York City to meet with theater professionals there, with hopes of launching his play on Broadway. The contacts he made during his graduate school days would remain his closest friends and confidants over the years.
In the 1980s Andy transitioned into fundraising for air and space museums, capitalizing on his love of airplanes. Andy shared a personal, numerological link with the Wright brothers who flew the first successful airplane on Dec. 17, 1903. Andy was born on this day in 1930.
In 1988 he formed The Prentice Company, serving as its CEO until its dissolution in 2012. The company engaged in conglomerate efforts with other business and arts management groups to raise money for dozens of national museums and organizations, to include the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wis.; the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash.; the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum in Honolulu Hawaii; and the Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington D.C. Andy worked closely with members of the British Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation (RAFMAF) to establish its foothold within the U.S. On a 2003 visit to England during a celebration of the Wright brothers' 100th anniversary of their historic flight, Andy met Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the leading sponsor of the RAFMAF.
Despite Andy's beginnings on Chicago's South Side, he became an avid, die-hard Chicago Cubs baseball fan early on and took advantage of most any opportunity to catch the Cubs at Wrigley Field or at their spring training ground in Arizona. Once before a spring training game he picked up a random baseball that had rolled away from the main practice and caught Ernie Banks in time to get his signature on the ball.
Andrew is survived by his beloved wife Lu of 63 years; his daughter Sarah (Chad) Bro of Frederick Md.; his son Gustav "Gus" Bro of Santa Barbara Calif.; several cousins; and three generations of devoted nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents Albin and Margueritte Bro; brothers (and sisters-in-law) Harmon (June) Bro, Kenneth (Patricia) Bro, and his sister (and brother-in-law) Alice (Emanuel) Racher.
A funeral service followed by an informal reception will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, at Grace Episcopal Church, 10 S. Cherry St., Freeport. The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of Chicago, will preside. All are invited to attend. Law-Jones Funeral Home is overseeing arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made directly to Timber Lake Playhouse, 8215 Black Oak Road, Mount Carroll, IL 61053. Indicate "Andy Bro Memorial" on the donation.