Aug. 25, 1935 — June 23, 2018
In many ways, Ted Hadley's work as a freelance theater critic for The Buffalo News reflected his approach to life.
"He did not want to be in the limelight," said his daughter Kristin Thompson. "He liked having a seat in the back of the house where he could watch whoever was in the spotlight. He let the light shine on other people."
While his encyclopedic knowledge of theater prepared him to write comprehensive, informed reviews, he went out of his way to be encouraging.
"He was a delightful man, and he always tried, more than any other critic, to find silver linings in a production that might not have been great," said Colin Dabkowski, former News arts critic.
Mr. Hadley, 82, a Marine Corps veteran and longtime Lockport middle school teacher, died June 23 in Niagara Hospice House in Lockport after an illness of a few weeks.
He was born in Lockport on Aug. 25, 1935, the youngest son of the late Theodore and Marie Stevenson. He was the brother of Jack and of Jean Dysinger.
When he was a child, his mother was manager of a movie theater in Lockport. Every day after dismissal from St. John's Catholic School, Mr. Hadley would go to the theater while she worked and watch movies, said his wife, Marie (Licata) Hadley.
"He sat there through every movie, I don't know how many times," said his wife. "He always loved the theater, and he had this great 80-year knowledge of all the old movies, all the old plays, and he would research the few plays that he didn't know."
After graduating in 1953 from DeSales High School, he came to a crossroad in life. "His father wanted him to be an engineer," said his wife. But he was not skilled in math, so after one semester at Clarkson University, he left college for a job at Harrison Radiator while he pondered his next step.
In 1955, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. "His first reason was love of country," said his wife. He earned marksman certification, she said. Mr. Hadley served in Guam and was discharged in 1958 with the rank of sergeant. Through the years, when people asked him what got him, with his slight build, through the Marine Corps, he generally replied, "guile."
He met Marie Licata when they went on a double-date together, although not with each other. She was his college friend's date, but caught Mr. Hadley's eye. After assuring that there would be no hurt feelings, they began the relationship that led to their wedding on Nov. 19, 1960, and a marriage of more than 57 years.
Mr. Hadley graduated from State University College of Buffalo in 1962 with a degree in education and began a 35-year career with the Lockport City School District. He worked mostly as a teacher at North Park Middle School, where he led and directed the school's Zodiac Players.
The young casts performed more than 100 plays. "He wanted to give those kids the opportunity, putting on dramas and musicals," said Thompson. He did not shy away from choosing challenging plays, including "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" and "Scrooge," she said.
Mr. Hadley spent seven years as the district's supervisor of state and special projects and district spokesperson. He also edited several district publications and developed “Teaching Partners,” a statewide publication for reading teachers. After his retirement in 1995, he returned to assist with the district’s "Lockport Opportunities Project" to create an alternate high school.
In 1974, Mr. Hadley began a second career as an arts critic for the Lockport Union Sun & Journal, specializing in theater critiques. He went on to review work for the state Council on the Arts, The Mid-Atlantic Arts Consortium, and radio stations WKBW and WLVL, where he was known as "The Theater Guy." He joined The Buffalo News as a contributing reviewer in 2001.
In his final review for The Buffalo News, of "The Awful Truth," by the Irish Classical Theatre Company in April, Mr. Hadley wrote that the work "is the kind of play that Irish Classical Theatre Company does best. Costumed to the nines, classy set pieces, witty repartee, the sexes doing battle, foolish people, fibs, machinations, love eventually conquering all. ICTC has mastered the formula."
He loved attending plays at the Shaw Festival, and the Stratford Festival "was his favorite place to be," said his daughter. When their daughters were young, the Hadleys attended as a family. "My friends growing up were all off camping and vacationing and we were off at Stratford watching Shakespearean theater," she said, chuckling. "But it was wonderful, I was so grateful — who gets to do that?"
Mr. Hadley loved local theater too, said his wife. "Ted never felt that local theater wasn't worthy of getting a good review, just because somebody wasn't paid for it or did it for love of the theater. Just the fact that they wanted to do it was good enough," she said. "And he always felt that if he brought one more person to the theater that never went, that he had done his job."
As a father, Mr. Hadley "was kind and gentle, he was a nurturer, very present in our lives and very attentive to what we wanted to do, and in our children's lives too," said Thompson. "I could not have asked for a more wonderful dad."
All three of the Hadley daughters live in Newfane, and the family gathers for dinner every Sunday.
Years ago, Mr. Hadley served on the church council at St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church in Newfane and on the board of the Niagara County Historical Society. He served for more than 30 years on the advisory board of the Lockport Salvation Army, including a term as board chairperson. He was also a longtime member of the annual Artie Awards committee.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by two other daughters, Elizabeth Bax and Annemarie Birdsall; seven grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was also the stepbrother of Linda Davis and the late David Sullivan.
A Memorial Celebration of Life will be held 10 a.m. Friday in the University at Buffalo's Newman Center, 495 Skinnersville Road, Amherst.