Some notes on the passing of
beloved Adeline Nall
Written by Sandra Weinhardt
Adeline Nall died on November 19, 1996 in the Emily Flynn Home in Marion, Indiana. She was 90 years old on August 5, 1996 and was active up to the end of her life. Adeline Nall was James Dean’s first speech and drama coach, at Fairmount High School. She also taught Jim Davis, Bob Sheets, Phil Jones and 28 other students who went on to become theatre professionals.
The viewing hours were at Raven Funeral Home in Marion, Indiana. The beautiful room was beige with a teal carpet and had no windows. Approximately 60 people signed the guest register.
On Friday morning, November 22, the casket was moved to the nearby Temple Congregational Church and set up in the vestibule. Mourners gathered there to reminisce and remark on the wonderful life of Ms. Nall. There were ten large floral displays around the casket, one with the comedy/tragedy masks. A large spray of red roses topped the polished embassy cherry wood. The satin lining was white, which set off Ms. Nall’s bright red suit, the one she wore at the James Dean memorial service last September. She had a red and black scarf at her throat and a James Dean postage stamp broach on her lapel.
The church was elegant in its simplicity. The walls were white, with a pine, arched ceiling. Eight windows let in the bright sunlight. The floor was a light tan tile. The pews were traditional wooden pews with the hymnbook holders on the backs, about twelve rows of them with a center aisle.
Looking ahead, the altar was simple, with a plain brass candlesticks on each side, each with a white taper. A wooden cornice held a red drapery on the wall behind the altar. On the red drapery was a large cross made of circles intricately fused together. It was different from anything I had seen.
Two white wooden pulpits with simple green hangings flanked the altar. The organist had, I believe, an excellent synthesizer which played so many instruments I thought I was hearing a tape. I remember hearing America the Beautiful and some traditional hymns.
At 10:30 Reverend Kevin McDonald took the pulpit. He thanked us for our support of the family and noted that we were here to pay tribute and thank God for the long life of Adeline Nall. He read the 23rd psalm and some other passages.
We learned that Ms. Nall had one son, David, a daughter-in-law, Lois, five grandchildren and nine greats. She retired from Fairmount High School in 1972 but as late as 1987 she played in On Golden Pond at the Marion Civic Theatre. She had acted with Van Heflin, and Jimmy made her do some Off Broadway plays in the fifties. Ms. Nall and two other teachers also designed the speech curriculum for the high schools in the state of Indiana.
Faxes had arrived for Rev. McDonald to read to us. Family and friends’ memories included dressing up in Adeline’s wonderful old clothes in her attic, climbing trees with her, delighting in her great sense of humor, riding a camel around the pyramids at the age of 70, and cooking her excellent fried chicken. (Her meatloaf and chili were better left unremembered, the family agreed.)
One grandson had written a Reader’s Digest style school assignment in which Adeline Nall was his most unforgettable character. Ms. Nall was charmed and sent him a check, just as if he had been published.
One of Adeline’s core beliefs was that we should all savor the moment; it adds grace to the aging process. She told wonderful anecdotes and was even writing a book at the time of her death. A woman named Jill had written an especially poignant story which brought tears to most of our eyes.
In conclusion, Rev. McDonald advised us that Adeline would tell us to live each moment with wonder, to live, learn and love every minute. He then surprised us by having Sweet Adeline played by the organist.
I would guess there were 75 people at this funeral. The car line to Estates of Serenity was three blocks long. Every single car on the road pulled over and stopped as we passed by. The cemetery was rural, very old, with patches of clean snow on the deep green grass. We were able to get to the interment site over the very wet ground. and the words said were very brief.
There is nothing one can say after the crushing finality of a funeral. Those who were affected by Adeline Nall’s life know that they were lucky to have been in her orbit. She looked forward to visiting with Jimmy Dean in Heaven, where she is now.
Read More about Mrs. Nall
At the ’97 James Dean festival in Fairmount, I met many folks who didn’d know who Adeline Nall was. I’ve made another page to collect all my notes about her in one place. This page is just the funeral. Please visit the more general Adeline page
Adeline Nall is an icon in my life, for her influence on James Dean but also as a symbol of all teachers who affect the lives of their students. (Sandra Weinhardt)
Credits: The photos above show 1.) a small display at the James Dean Gallery, with the scarves that Nicky Bazooka gave to Adeline each year. The scarves were a gift to David Loehr from the Nall family. 2.) A photo that I call Adeline in Blue, from David Loehr. 3. The headstone photo is courtesy of Magdalin Leonardo
The play reviewhas scenes with Adeline Nall. The play, James Dean: The Boy From Fairmount, by Harvey Cocks is a moving tribute to Jimmy. Mrs. Nall went to see the play as it was being developed and revised. She had input into each scene.
Contents of deaners.net
This page is humbly offered to those who could not attend the funeral. It’s written by just a James Dean fan, Sandra Weinhardt, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send all additions and corrections to me.
The contents of this page but not the links to outside resources of course) are ©copyright 1997-98 by Sandra Weinhardt, all rights reserved.