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A FOND FAREWELL // Mourning June

The theater community of Citrus County is mourning the passing of one of its most beloved members, June Halavan, who died Sunday at her home in the presence of her husband Bill and other members of her family.

I first met June in the summer of 1993, when I was persuaded to be the musical director and onstage bandleader of the play Foxfire. June played the country mother of the lead character.

For June, it was one of countless roles she had played over the years. We didn't have any scenes together, and I passed the time between my limited performances by watching her work from the wings.

She was a great actress, blending comedy, drama, love and honesty into a heartfelt performance. My favorite scene was when she peeled the flesh off a hog's head, much to the disgust of an actor portraying a city fellow. She did a good job in Foxfire.

Because I appeared in only two short scenes, I mostly spent my time backstage. Before and after the shows, I would quietly play Jimmy Buffett songs on my acoustic guitar, and she would listen. Sometimes she would sing a song from another era. I'll always have warm memories of her backstage charm.

It turned out to be an excellent introduction to community theater. I sorely needed one. Until then, I had never been to a local play and certainly had never been a cast member. But because of my circumstances, I guess, June took me under her wing. It was her special gift to me _ opening my eyes to allow some local culture to shine through.

From then on, our friendship grew. Whenever we met, we would greet with a warm embrace _ not one of those phony showbiz hugs, but a real one.

No matter what mood I was in, a hug from June would set my world straight.

Since then, June had kept herself busy in the theater. She had a role in The Foreigner at the Art League and also in Playhouse 19's production of Prisoner of Second Avenue and in 6 Rms Riv Vu with Gulf Islands Civic Theatre.

She also worked as stage manager, seamstress, lighting designer, set designer and ticket-taker at countless other shows produced by the local theaters. Chances are, if you've been to a local play in the past decade, June Halavan was probably involved in some manner.

I think the fact June was befriended by all the theater groups in the county not only spoke highly of her acting skills, but showed how many saw her as a warm-hearted and sensitive person as well.

But for the fact she took me under her wing, introducing me to the world of the stage and its many players, I would be a much lesser man. I only hope I've been able to somehow pass her gift to others by covering the local art scene for this newspaper.

I'm glad I got the opportunity to play a small role in her life. She touched my heart in many ways, big and small.

Godspeed, June, I'll miss you, and so will your fellow actors.