"The name Don Kordecki, it conjures up thoughts of a life well lived," said Cartersville Mayor and The Grand Administrator Matt Santini. "He was loved by all who knew him. He was a positive influence. He was always a spot of sunshine in everybody's day. We're all saddened that he's taken his final bow but just like any other great entertainer he's left his audience wanting more.
"As far as his contributions to the arts locally, it's well documented. He certainly helped forward the mission of the Cultural Arts Alliance. He is the founder of The Pumphouse Players. If you start looking around, you are going to be very hard-pressed to find an arts organization in the state of Georgia that he wasn't a charter member of, wasn't a founder of or wasn't a past president of. His influence on the arts certainly is immeasurable here but I think that holds true for the rest of the state of Georgia."
Kordecki's ties to the local theater scene started in 1961, when he came to Cartersville to operate radio station WKRW.
At a time when the local arts offerings consisted of a music club and an arts gallery, Kordecki was selected by the Cartersville mayor to serve on a committee charged with "bringing the arts to the community." After performing "Our Town" in the early 1960s, he helped form the Dramateurs. Then Kordecki and his wife, Ollene, were two of four individuals who founded The Pumphouse Players in April 1975.
"Art is the future," Kordecki told The Daily Tribune News in 2008 about the importance of establishing a strong visual and performing arts community. "When you look at any civilization, and you ask how do we identify the civilization, it is through the arts. I have a little sign that says without art in Cartersville and Bartow we would live in Cersville and Bow. Art is the heart of the community and it represents our lives."
Known for overseeing The Grand's renovation in 1988 from a movie house to a performing arts venue, the Cartersville resident's acting, directing and technical talents also have been featured in productions of the Dramateurs, Red Top Mountain Players, The Pumphouse Players, The Cartersville City Ballet, The Pumped Up Players and the Grand Theatre Opera Company.
"I really got to know him when I came to work here and that was 11 years ago," said The Grand Program Coordinator Terri Cox, adding in respect to Kordecki, the theater has postponed its "100 Years of Memories" presentation, originally scheduled for Saturday. "I feel like the first day that I worked here that I had found one of my best friends ever. He was like a brother to me. The most amazing thing about him was that he was a very intelligent man. I think he was smarter than anybody else I know but he never made you feel like you weren't smart. He could talk to anybody, make anybody feel good.
"Last week he was directing 7-year-olds on one day and 70-year-olds on another day and he could equally work with any age person and do a great job with it. He was a very kind person, just a wizard with words. He could make you laugh. He would make a joke out of anything. He could spin words in a way that nobody else could. He just made every day a great day."
Through the years, Kordecki also assisted various organizations in the community, such as the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Cultural Arts Alliance of Cartersville-Bartow County Inc. and Bartow County Library Board of Trustees.
"To be quite honest I don't know how he's going to be replaced [as our board chairman]," said Regina Wheeler, deputy director for the local CVB. "I don't even really want to think about that today. [CVB Executive Director] Ellen [Archer] posted a comment on her Facebook page today ... she wrote, 'Don Kordecki, chairman of the Cartersville-Bartow County CVB board of directors, passed away last night. I bring the news to our friends with great sadness.
"Don was our friend. He was the best kind of leader. He brought smiles when we needed him most. He was one of the most intelligent and talented people I have ever known and respected by all who knew him. His contributions to Cartersville and Bartow County are almost innumerable. As inadequate of a statement as it is, Don will be greatly missed.' ... For those that didn't know him, I can just say they missed out. Our prayers are with his family today."
Kordecki's family will receive friends Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Owen Funeral Home, 12 Collins Drive in Cartersville, which is in charge of the arrangements.