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Lola May Secor Rothmann died on September 17 at the age of 97. She was preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, Dr. Bruce F. Rothmann, and her parents Caroline and Percy Secor. She is survived by her daughters Dr. Susan Ann Rothmann (Dr. Philip Paul), Pamela Jane Rothmann (Solomon Cokes) and Beth Rusnak (Dr. Joseph Rusnak), her grandchildren Jeremy Paul (Faye Hargate), Dr. J. Michael Rusnak and Dr. Lauren Rusnak, step-grandchildren Lisa, Tony, Sean, and Corey Cokes, 4 step-great grandchildren, as well as nieces, nephews, and cousins, including her closest cousin Beverly Teague. She also leaves behind many others for whom she was a mother, mentor, and dear friend.
Lola was born in Jamestown New York on May 6, 1923. She graduated from Jamestown High School in 1941. She attended Alfred University extension at Jamestown from 1941-1943, transferring to Keuka College where she obtained her B.S. degree in 1945. She was also a graduate of
Warren Conservatory of Music, in Warren PA earning a Conservatory Degree in Piano and Music Theory. She studied music history classes at Kent State University School of Music Graduate School in 1967-1970.
After college, Lola moved to New York City and had jobs with the American Red Cross and Liberty Mutual as a claims adjuster. Entrusted with her own car, she famously stopped traffic on the Queensboro Bridge when she accidentally drove into the wrong way lane. While in New York, she met her husband Bruce on VJ Day when a high school friend fixed her up with his roommate as a blind date. They were married on June 14, 1947. They moved to Akron for Bruce’s surgical residency and Lola worked as an executive secretary for the head of Goodyear International.
In 1950 when the US Navy changed Bruce’s Reserve status to active duty, Lola moved to Jamestown and then St. Albans NY while Bruce served as a surgeon on the US Haven in Korea and at the St. Albans Naval Medical Center. They settled in Cuyahoga Falls OH in 1953, later moving to Silver Lake and Hudson OH.
An accomplished pianist, she studied with Leroy B. Campbell, Frank Johnson, Arthur Reginald and Marian Lott. She was accepted into the Tuesday Musical Club by audition. She gave recitals and was a sought after collaborative pianist by local musicians. Lola joined the First Congregational Church of Akron in 1957 and sang in the contralto section of the choir until 2001, the second longest member, commemorated by a plaque on her chair. She chaired the Music Board and the Restoration Committee for the Church’s Casavant Freres organ.
Her influence on Northeastern Arts Organizations was extraordinary, earning her the accolade of Akron’s cultural architect. She joined the Akron Children’s Concert Society, and served on its Board of Trustees from 1961-64. She was Vice President in charge of in-school concerts in Summit County and a member of the Associate Board from 1981 until her death. During her tenure, she exposed thousands of Children to classical music, first by bringing members of the Cleveland Orchestra to area schools with her friend, organist Joanne Hart, later with presenting concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra and the Akron Symphony Orchestra. She first got involved when one her daughters said a teacher needed a mother to collect the money so the class could attend a concert and volunteered Lola.
She was a founding committee member of the University of Akron Chamber Ballet that became Ohio Ballet directed by Heinz Poll. When Bruce was the Cleveland Orchestra Tour Physician for 3 tours to Europe and the Far East in the 70’s, Lola served as his assistant, taking notes and dispensing medications. Conductors Louis Lane and Matthias Bamert were dear friends. She was a member of the Women’s Committee of the Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom Music Center Women’s Committee. After Blossom Music Center opened, she hosted many after concert receptions where she served buffet suppers, often to 50-60 people, including the guest artists and many Cleveland Orchestra musicians.
However, her biggest impact came from her service as the Concert Planning Chair of the Akron Symphony Orchestra (Greater Akron Musical Association) from 1964-1982 and Concert Manager of the Tuesday Musical Society from 1970 to 1989. Working as a volunteer from her kitchen office, she presented dozens of leading classical music artists, Luciano Pavarotti, Beverly Sills, Andre Watts, Joan Sutherland, Empire Brass, Jaime Laredo, and Joshua Bell. Many such as Marilyn Horne and Gary Graffman became life long friends. She often picked up artists from the airport and hosted them overnight at her home. Her presence at EJ Thomas Hall guiding artists on and off stage was so pervasive that a special peephole with the label “Lola Rothmann Peephole” was drilled in a door so she could follow the action on stage. When the Hall was remodeled, the stagehands cut out the hole and mounted it on a plaque for her. In 1982, she co-founded Music from Stan Hywet, serving as concert chairman and member of the Board of Trustees, presenting recital from the Hall’s legendary Music Room. When the Hall’s concerns about wear and tear forced the group to move to Western Reserve Academy, she co-founded Music from the Western Reserve in 2002, serving as concert manager until 2004 and a Board member until her death. Every year a concert is dedicated to Lola. As part of her support for Cleveland Institute of Music, she frequently hired faculty and students for concerts.
Music was not the only recipient of Lola’s volunteerism. She was a member of the Akron Children’s Hospital Medical Center Women’s Board from 1969-81 and served as a Pink Lady, comforting children in pre-op and the recovery room. She was an Associate Women’s Board member until her death. She also was a member of the Summit County Medical Alliance. Her service along with Bruce’s to the Great Trail Boy Scouts was honored by naming the renovated Camp Manatoc dining hall the Lola and Bruce.
The recipient of numerous awards and accolades, she made an enduring impact on many Northeastern Ohio arts organizations. They include a nomination for the Northern Ohio LIVE magazine award in classical music in 1988, a recipient in 1989 of a Gold Card and an Honorary Life Membership from the Akron Canton Local 48 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the first recipient of the Tuesday Musical Association Lola Rothmann Volunteer Achievement Award given annually, winner (with Mabel Graham and Barbara Feld) of the Northern Ohio LIVE magazine award in classical music in 1996, Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts (with her husband Bruce) from the Akron Area Arts Alliance. In 2018, Maelstrom Collaborative Arts in Cleveland, directed by her grandson Jeremy Paul and Board chair daughter Susan, named their performance hall the Lola Rothmann Performing Arts Hall, “Lola Hall”, in honor of her contributions to northern Ohio arts.
With all of these many contributions to the fabric of the Akron area, Lola always had time for family and friends. She avidly watched first episodes of “The French Chef” transforming the family meals into Julia Child gourmet delights. She collected cookbooks and recipes, keeping track of what she served for parties and suppers to avoid serving the same dishes twice. Her Silver Lake home was an after school haven for many of her daughters’ friends. Lola sewed costumes for dance recitals and plays, transported kids to and from activities, took care of the family Miniature Schnauzers and held hands when bodies and hearts were sick. She kept in touch with far flung friends until she died. She was a voracious reader and especially enjoyed mysteries. Her crossword puzzle passion and expertise was such that there was always a puzzle book by her side and one or two in her purse. Her quick wit and outpouring of love were bestowed generously on many who considered her a second mother and friend.
A private service of memory for immediate family only will be held October 17 at First Congregational Church of Akron. A public celebration of her life will be held at a future time. Interment will be at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland NY in a private ceremony.
Memorial gifts may be sent to Maelstrom Collaborative Arts in support of Lola Hall (https://maelstromcollaborativearts.org/feed), Tuesday Musical Association (https://www.tuesdaymusical.org/donate), Akron Symphony Orchestra (https://akronsymphony.org/support-us/), and Music from the Western Reserve (http://www.mftwr.org/donate.aspx).
Arrangements entrusted to Clifford-Shoemaker Funeral Home, 330-928-2147.