Former teacher, actress served as local historian through columns

Last updated: May 15. 2014 6:19PM - 5519 Views

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Actress and educator, columnist and local legend, Charlotte Nolan died Thursday after an extended illness.

Nolan, 85, was known throughout the county for her love of the arts and her columns in the Harlan Daily Enterprise that focused on her years growing up in the area and her memories of that bygone era that touched hundreds of current and former residents.

“Miss Nolan’s lasting legacy is her love and passion for the performing arts that she has spread and fostered and will undoubtedly continue for generations to come,” said longtime friend Rose Cohelia.

Miss Nolan, as she was referred to affectionately by many in the community, was born Nov. 29, 1928, in Harlan, the daughter of Dr. Joseph Wynne and Bertha Whitehead Nolan. She graduated from Harlan High School in 1946 where she was a charter member of the Musettes, a cheerleader, class salutatorian, band member and two-time winner of the state speech competition.

She attended Lindenwood College for Women in St. Charles, Mo., and graduated from Northwestern University. She completed a master’s degree in secondary education.

Nolan spent 17 months in Europe as a recreational director for the United States Army. She was stationed at a camp near Paris, where she staged parties, games and amateur plays.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Nolan was a professional performer. She appeared at Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., with Hollywood legends such as Patricia Neal and Ernest Borgnine and many others.

After moving to New York, she performed in nightclubs with a comedy trio called the MAD-moiselles. Nolan played the role of Al Capp’s cartoon character Mammy Yokum in the Broadway musical Li’l Abner for six years, including the national tour.

In 1964, Nolan returned home and entered the professional classroom to teach English, speech and drama where she became well-known in the Kentucky High School Speech League and regional theatre circles for her superior dramatic productions.

After 29 years of service, she retired but continued to encourage and promote arts in the community by being one of the founders of Pleasant Mountains Performing Arts and Artists Association Inc. and Artists’ Attic.

She traveled to Ireland and Wales where she appeared in Mummers Plays with Morehead State University’s OperaWorks.

She performed in many local theatre productions including Higher Ground.

In 2006, she was inducted into the Barter Theatre Walk of Fame.

Nolan began writing her popular weekly newspaper column in 2000 and in 2003 published a book of her columns entitled “Ah Has Spoken…From the Heart.” Her last column “Imaginary friends from childhood” was published on Wednesday.

Arrangements are pending at Anderson-Laws and Jones Funeral Home.

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