January 20, 2021

Former Egyptian Theatre Executive Director Barbara Kummerfeldt passes away

DeKalb, IL – The Egyptian Theatre is saddened to announce that former Executive Director Barbara Kummerfeldt passed away on January 20th at the age of 87.

Kummerfeldt’s multi-decade history with the Egyptian Theatre started during the late 1970’s when she, along with her husband Irv, were part of the original steering committee that was instrumental in saving the Egyptian Theatre from the literal wrecking ball. She along with a group of concerned citizens worked to get the building listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978 and formed the non-profit organization, Preservation of Egyptian Theatre, which continues to own and operate the Theatre to this day.

“Barb dedicated an impressive number of years to the Egyptian Theatre.  There is no doubt she has left a lasting imprint on the history of the Theatre,” stated Alex Nerad, Egyptian Theatre Executive Director.

Thanks to Kummerfeldt’s efforts, she, along with many dedicated community members, were able to secure a $2.3 million grant from the State of Illinois in 1982. This money was used to restore the Theatre to its original 1929 splendor. 

“Barb never wearied in her passion for the preservation of the Egyptian Theatre,” said DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas. “From the preservation campaign that she and her late husband, Irv, successfully led to renovate the historic theatre in the 1980s to the present, she thought about and talked about what might be done to make it better every day.”

When the Theatre reopened in 1983 after its restoration, she became the first Executive Director of the non-profit serving until 1988 where she helped to see that it was host to dozens of events a year including robust film programming. 

“Without Barb Kummerfeldt there most likely would be a parking lot at 135 N. Second St. instead of the historic landmark Egyptian Theatre,” stated former Egyptian Theatre Board Member Barb Josh. “She not only cleared the initial hurdle of saving the Theatre from the wrecking ball, but the even larger one of funding its restoration and making it financially viable.  She, along with her husband Irv, and a handful of others made the building operational so it could be open to the public during its restoration. In all aspects, she was always hands on.”

Many community members who worked with Kummerfeldt during her tenure at the Egyptian Theatre have begun to share their memories of Barb following her passing.

“It’s very possible that we would have never seen the revitalization of the Egyptian Theatre if it had not been for Irv and Barbara Kummerfeldt.  As a matter of fact, this community treasure might not even be intact had it not been for the dogged determination of the Kummerfeldt’s over 40 years ago.  Now, we share in the sadness in Barb’s passing, but we celebrate her stewardship that continued for many years following the establishment of the Preservation of Egyptian Theatre organization.  We will continue the celebration of Barb Kummerfeldt’s life later this year, as we look forward to a gala grand opening of the Egyptian Theatre,” stated City of DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith.

“The City of DeKalb has lost a champion.  The dedication of Barb Kummerfeldt, as Director of the Egyptian Theatre merits a chapter in the community’s history,” stated charter P.E.T. members Roger and Mary Keys. “Barb championed the Egyptian as a cultural arts center for the city when the building was filled with snow and falling apart. Beginning in the late 1970’s as a charter member of Preservation of Egyptian Theatre she opened her home for meetings, helped keep the lights on during trying times and supported fellow volunteers. With grateful hearts we mourn her passing.”

“When I first came to NIU/DeKalb, Barbara Kummerfeldt was one of the first people to welcome me and got on the bandwagon of supporting the NIU Show Band. The method to her madness was getting me to support her and Irv’s efforts in saving the Egyptian Theatre. DeKalb will forever be indebted to Barbara Kummerfeldt for her love, commitment, and preservation of the theatre – a DeKalb Treasure.” stated Michael Embrey who presented shows at the Egyptian Theatre during Kummerfeldt’s tenure.

Kummerfeldt has left a longstanding impact on the Egyptian Theatre and will forever be a part of its rich history.

Additional memories and tributes will continue to be shared on the Egyptian Theatre social media and website: www.egyptiantheatre.org.  The Egyptian Theatre is located at 135 N. 2nd Street in DeKalb, Illinois.