Ed Ragozzino: Passionate voice for the arts is dead

Ed Ragozzino: Passionate voice for the arts is dead »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. – A giant of musical theater and a driving force of the arts in Lane County has died.

Seventy-nine-year-old Ed Ragozzino lost his fight against cancer Saturday. Ragozzino ended his journey at Riverbend Hospital in Springfield.

However, his legacy to the arts will live on. From teaching high school and college drama, to his popular "Eugene Festival of Musical Theater" series, Ragozzino brought entertainment to thousands.

Churchill High School theater arts director, Al Villanueva, said Ragozzino was an inspiration to Villanueva's own career.  Villanueva said he watched his first Ragozzino production in the 1960s of "The Sound Of Music."

"South Eugene [High School] would fill up," Villaneuva tells KVAL. "That theater held 2,000 people then. He did great shows, [even coordinating] the fundraiser to build the Hult Center. We wouldn't have the Hult Center – we wouldn't have that fabulous Lane Theater – if it hadn't been for his work."

Indeed, former KVAL News Arts Reporter Fred Crafts calls the Hult Center "the house that Ed built."

"Ed's impact is just absolutely enormous, not only for this city but also for the nation," Crafts said. "He's had people go out into the world to teach, to be on the stage, on Broadway, in movies and on concert stages.  His people have made an enormous impact all across the nation – so his loss is just immeasurable."

In the 1980s, Ragozzino launched the "Eugene Festival of Musical Theater" series with musicals that packed the Silva Concert Hall. Productions included "My Fair Lady," "The King and I," "West Side Story" and a host of others.