Community members, friends and family gathered this weekend to celebrate what would have been the 54th birthday of .
The former artistic director died earlier this year after a battle with cancer that involved hundreds of people. They held a . It raised thousands of dollars for community theater efforts.
But they wanted something more longstanding.
Shortly after his death this spring, theater lovers linked to the Playhouse proposed the idea of naming the short street in front of the theater after Walker. He served the theater for 10 years, raising it from a struggling stage on the verge of financially collapsing to one that now impacts thousands of people through its inspiring plays, outreach and children’s theater programs.
Lakewood Playhouse board members met with city of Lakewood officials and the street naming began to take shape. Inland Management, the company that owns most of the property at the Lakewood Towne Center, approved the project.
“After a decade of artistic leadership, Marcus left such a beautifully lit path for us to follow artistically that it felt right to name the street that runs in front of the Lakewood Playhouse after him,” said John Munn, current artistic director and close friend of Walker. “Marcus always made you feel welcome when you came to the Playhouse. His smile, his laughter and his genuine warmth to all of its visitors were a mainstay here at the theatre. All of those feelings come back simply by seeing that sign when we see it when we come to the theatre. It couldn't be more wonderful.”
The Marcus Walker Way sign sits at the corner of what was an unnamed access alley and Lakewood Towne Center Boulevard. The “Way” stretches about 50 feet, but the sign is visible to anyone who walks or drives by. It's located next to the Pierce Transit Station and in front of the theater.
A few dozen of Walker’s friends and family gathered in the rain and wind to mark what would have been his birthday weekend. They shared stories and mourned the loss. But they also celebrated the street dedication as a lasting memory of Walker.
Bekah Greer was just a young girl when she first met Walker. She was a volunteer by tending to the yard outside the theater. He chatted with her and then gave her a hug of thanks for volunteering her time. She has since been in 11 shows at the theater, most notably as the waitress in "Joe's Diner" a few years ago.
"He was just real nice and interested in people," Greer said.
Shawne Smith played Kaa in "The Jungle Book." She said she loved how Walker created the sense of community at the theater.
"I just liked how it was one big family," she said. "I feel at home here."