Last April, the first reported death of a Box Elder County resident attributed to COVID-19 was a blow to communities throughout the county when word got out who the victim was.
Nearly one year later, a group of locals is working to pay tribute to longtime local educator, theater teacher and actor Allen “Dee” Pace by building a space that would have made him proud.
A committee led by Karen Stokes, president of the Bear River Valley Museum Board of Directors, is organizing an effort to build a theater in Tremonton that will be named after Pace.
“When he passed away last year, some students and people in the community decided to pay tribute to him by building a theater,” Stokes said. “The community really needs something.”
She said current plans call for a venue with about 230 seats. In addition to community theater productions, it would also house dance recitals, music groups, events for veterans, and just about any community-oriented activity.
Stokes said there is a glaring lack of space for community theater productions in the Bear River Valley. She said that while the BRHS auditorium is a nice venue, it’s much bigger than what many productions need, and the cost to rent it can be prohibitive.
With limited funding available from grants and other government sources, the fundraising effort is happening at the grassroots level, and Stokes said it will require the participation of local businesses, individuals and other organizations to make it a reality.
Pace, a native of Spanish Fork, was highly influential in his career as an educator in Box Elder County. A graduate of the University of Utah, he was a former theater teacher and administrator at Bear River and Box Elder High Schools, and also served as principal of the former Honeyville Elementary.
Pace, who most recently lived in Willard, came to Tremonton in 1978 and taught drama at Bear River High School for 15 years. He organized numerous plays with BRHS students, and when school was out in the summer, acted in and helped produce local community plays.
He died at age 68 on April 18, 2020, after contracting the coronavirus while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Detroit, Michigan area with his wife, Nedra.
Stokes said one of her daughters played a leading role in Pace’s first play at BRHS, “South Pacific,” and other children of hers also appeared in his productions and benefited from his tutelage.
“He had a big influence on my family, and I’m not the only parent who says that,” she said.
The seven-member board in charge of the effort is currently seeking out people who were in Pace’s plays, or were influenced by him in other ways, to solicit donations from them. The board is working on a new website for the project, and is designing a promotion in which people can pay $175 to have a brick engraved with their name installed in the sidewalk in front of the building.
The effort is still in the early stages, and the board is still seeking a location for the new building.
Those who wish to contribute to the effort can do so in person at the D.L. Evans Bank Tremonton branch, 312 W. Main St., or by mail to Dee Pace Theater, P.O. Box 295, Tremonton, UT 84337.