Gabriel (Terry) L. Stoner (1944-2014)
Gabriel (Terry) L. Stoner passed away peacefully on Wednesday,
November 5, 2014 in Overland Park, Kansas after an extended
illness. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1944, the son of
Mary Sharr Birkenholz and Terry S. Stoner. Gabe went to
elementary school in Parnell, Missouri; middle school at the Wilcox
Country School; high school in Ravenwood, Missouri; and college
at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri.
At an early age, it was apparent Gabe was a very talented artist.
He majored in art at Northwest Missouri State University, where he
fell in love with modern dance. In 1966, Gabe moved to
Minneapolis, Minnesota to pursue dance professionally. He began
his studies with Nancy McKnight Hauser, where he met his wife
and dance partner of 11 years, Marie Winckler. Gabe quickly
became a lead dancer in the Nancy Hauser Dance Company.
While there, he met German dancer Margret Dietz, who became
his mentor. In 1968, Gabe was one of 40 dancers admitted from
700 applicants to the New York University School of Performing
Arts Dance Program, but he chose to stay in Minneapolis to study
with Margret Dietz. In 1968, by invitation, Gabe and Marie created
the first dance program at the College of St. Benedict’s renowned
Benedicta Arts Center (BAC) in St. Joseph, Minnesota. In 1970,
Margret Dietz, Gabe and Marie founded the dance company
Choreogram with Linda Osborne and Judith Mirus. Following
Margret’s death in 1972, Gabe and Marie formed the BAC’s first
resident dance company, Spira, A Company of Dancers, with
Paula Rahders. They moved the company to Portland, Oregon in
1975 where they developed a studio and black box theater in the
Pythian Building in downtown Portland. Spira was hailed by
reviewers and awarded operating grants from the City of Portland.
Gabe contributed many repertory works to Choreogram and Spira,
including Nocturna, Expulsion From the Garden of Eden (a comedy
created together with Marie), Eulenspiegel, From an Unseen
Forest, The Planets (with Marie and Paula), Hodie, A Christmas
Cantata (with Marie), and On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! In 1977,
Spira won positions on the National Endowment for the Arts
National Dance Touring Program and Young Audiences Arts for
Learning visiting artists program. That year, Gabe created his first
large, suspended set pieces in his finest and perhaps signature
dance work, Time Cycle, which won him an Individual Artist
Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He used this
fellowship to create a giant mobile as a suspended, rotating set
piece for his group dance Ceremonial Landscape.
Gabe was the quintessential artist throughout his life; he expressed
his creativity in paint, clay, dance, figure skating, wearable art,
music and mobiles. Gabe was always creating, admiring and
appreciating artistic beauty whether human made or created by
Mother Nature. He won the Kansas Governor’s Artist Award in
1989. He had a green thumb and loved growing exotic plants. The
artwork he created over his lifetime is enjoyed in thousands of
homes and businesses over the four corners of the world. Gabe
made friends easily and developed numerous lifelong friends
through his pursuit of art.
Gabe is preceded by his loving mother, Mary Birkenholz; his step-
father, Julius Birkenholz; his brother, Larry Stoner; and lifelong
friends, Billie Nickell and Ed Sherlock. Gabe is survived by his
sister Judy Stoner Bailey (husband Gary) of Moberly, Missouri; his
brother Tom Birkenholz (husband Barry) of Princeton, New Jersey;
two nephews, Jason and Joshua Bailey; his great nephew Harley
Bailey; his great niece Katherine Bailey; an extended family of
cousins; and his former partner, Michael Hatton.
A memorial service will be held next summer at Eisenhower State
Park on Lake Melvern in Osage County, Kansas, Gabe’s home for
30 years. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made in the
name of Gabriel L. Stoner to Positive Connections, 1001 SW
Garfield Avenue, Suite 4, Topeka, Kansas 66604 or Arts Connect,
515 South Kansas Avenue, Suite A, Topeka Kansas 66603.
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