The DeKalb High Class of 1965 held its 50th reunion in August and gave one of its alums, Richard Jenkins, a replica of an Oscar. Less than a month later, he was awarded a real Emmy for his lead role in the HBO TV mini-series “Olive Kitteridge.” (See article on his award in the Daily Chronicle Oct. 1.)
Although most of his classmates are retired, Jenkins, 68, is probably at the pinnacle of his acting career after a lifetime of roles that have earned him dozens of accolades in both movies and television.
Recently, some classmates shared a 1965 high school yearbook, The Kalibre, with me telling about Johnson’s school exploits. It listed his activities: Drama Club, Individual Speech, Intramurals, sophomore and varsity athletics, water ballet and membership in the “D” Club, an all-boys service club.
Three of his classmates, Diane Gautcher, Jim Dayton and David Hegberg agreed that Jenkins has gone out of his way to travel from his home in Rhode Island to their gatherings most every five years, and many times his wife Sharon accompanies him, as she did in August.
Jenkins used to make more frequent stops in DeKalb while his parents, dentist Dr. Dale Jenkins and mother Libby, were alive; they last lived at the Oak Crest retirement community.
On a visit back in 2004, he was interviewed by Daily Chronicle writer Carol Hegberg, who recalls he was very easy to talk with. At the time, the film “Cheaper by the Dozen” was playing at area theaters and Jenkins had a major role as a sports director at Northwestern University. Leading actors in that production were Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt.
The article tells he learned much about acting at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he was a theater major and a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. It also was there he met Sharon, and they married in 1969. They have two children, Sarah and Andy.
He fell in love with the little state of Rhode Island where he got his start with the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, so decided to make that his home. But he must continue to travel back to Hollywood and other sites around the country where movies are being filmed on location.
Some popular movies in which he has had roles over the years include such productions as “The Witches of Eastwick,” “Say It Isn’t So,” “Snow Falling on Cedars,” “Hall Pass,” the 2012 “Three Stooges” remake, “The Man who Wasn’t There,” “The Visitor,” “The Kingdom,” and one more recent movie I really enjoyed – “Eat Pray, Love,” where he co-starred with Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem.
He also has been nominated for several awards for his TV roles, including the HBO series “Six Feet Under,” where he played the deceased patriarch who reappears in their dreams or as a ghost. He also has been in the series “Miami Vice” in the role of a DEA agent and in a later episode as a mob boss.
If his old DeKalb High drama teacher Dozie Helsabeck still was around today he would be mighty proud of that handsome young man whose first job out of school was driving a linen truck.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. Information on his latest book of columns can be found at www.dekalbcountylife.com.