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Lisa McDevitt, a Force Behind Flagler Auditorium and Arts Education, Dies at 58

| January 22, 2019

lisa mcdevitt

Lisa McDevitt. (© FlaglerLive)

Note: A Celebration of the Life of Lisa E. McDevitt is scheduled for Saturday, February 2 at 6 p.m. at the Flagler Auditorium, 5500 State Road 100 Palm Coast. Lisa’s family will gather to greet friends from 4:30 p.m. on Saturday until the time of services in the lobby of the Auditorium.

Lisa McDevitt, the executive director of the Flagler Auditorium for the last 16 years and a fierce advocate for the arts in education, died Monday after a months-long struggle with cancer. She was 58.

“We lost an amazing woman last night. Our mother, our best friend,” her family posted on a Facebook page.

From Dave Mason to the Ten Tenors to Linda Cole’s jazz celebrations to Ed Asner playing FDR to Russian dance troupes to revivals and tributes from Led Zepplin to the Bee Gees to Led Zepplin, McDevitt combined Broadway-quality shows with the considerable demand for stage space from community and school shows along with a series of fundraisers throughout the year, from what she called “Holiday Extravaganzas” to themed gala nights to swimming with rubber ducks–anything to raise money for the auditorium and the arts. Several years ago she created an Arts in Education fund to provide grants to students in the performing arts.

“Lisa was a larger-than-life force and when it came to the arts in education, there was no one else more passionate about ensuring students had access to all of those programs. She was a true champion for arts in Flagler County, not just for students but for the community as well,” School Board member Colleen Conklin said. “She was really the cornerstone of the auditorium program. There’s just no denying that. I’ve never met anybody in my professional life who’s given their heart and soul the way she did for the auditorium.”

Allen Whetsell and Lisa McDevitt at a Christmas parade in Flagler Beach. (© FlaglerLive)

Allen Whetsell and Lisa McDevitt at a Christmas parade in Flagler Beach.
(© FlaglerLive)

Allen Whetsell, who served on the auditorium governing board, including two stints as its president, would often co-host July 4 and Christmas parades with McDevitt, and travel the country with her and the late Charlie Helm–they called themselves “the three amigos”–to scout talent expos.

“It was hilarious, everybody knew her,” Whetsell said of his co-hosting stints with McDevitt. “I have a very dry sense of humor, we played off of each other for many years” at the parades. “I remember a fun-loving, giving person who cared for the kids of this community. She was a driving force for the fine arts. As you know in economic times some of the first things that get cut in all budgets are those things in fine arts–theater, music, and Lisa was an advocate for those causes, and for the general public here in Flagler County for the quality of shows that were brought in to the Flagler Auditorium. We had quality Broadway shows brought here to Flagler County because of Lisa McDevitt at sometimes one-third of the cost of what it would cost to see the show in Orlando or Jacksonville.”

Whetsell was among the last to see McDevitt Monday. “I got to spend some time with her alone, and say my goodbyes,” he said. “When we last talked with each other was probably six weeks ago or so. I was in the hospital over the holidays, and she was in the hospital, but her concern was for me.” Every day he’d get a text from her, checking on his well-being, even as she was struggling with her own. “It’s a great loss to this community, for the arts community.”

Two decades ago McDevitt had been the Student Government Association representative at Flagler Palm Coast High School and worked at the auditorium as its ,marketing coordinator. She was elevated to executive director in 2003, shepherding the facility through capital campaigns, renovations, and, most recently, the reconstruction of the Auditorium’s front end, with a 10,000 square foot addition scheduled to be completed next month.

Lisa McDevitt during a fund-raiser in 2013. (© FlaglerLive)

Lisa McDevitt during a fund-raiser in 2013. (© FlaglerLive)

She’d had her struggles and challenges, both in her family and with her health, but Jim Tager, the superintendent, recalls often speaking with her recently about the weeks and months she’d made it after quitting smoking, a tally she took pride in. Tager recalled her cheer through it all, including her illness, diagnosed last year.

“Certain people are memorable to you, I guess everybody is memorable in a different kind of a way,” Tager, who became superintendent two years ago, said this morning, “but she embraced me the minute I arrived here. I realize this isn’t about me, it’s about her, but there’s something about Lisa that’s contagious. She smiles, she hugs you, she’s affectionate, and I guess more than the physical act of touching another person, she gives you a feeling of warmth and love, and that’s not something you get from everybody. I guess it’s like a friend and a mom in one. From the minute I got here it’s like we’ve known each other for years.”

Tager had visited with McDevitt’s daughter a few days ago. When it came time to part she gave him a hug similar to the way her mother would, but it was the sort of hug that doesn’t want to let go: Tager sensed McDevitt’s end was close. “We lost a bright, bright spot for many of us, but I think the pain people go through with that disease, I imagine it’s a relief for the people and for the family and for Lisa,” he said.

News of her loss was making its way across the community this morning, often to shocked reactions, as when School Board member Trevor Tucker, until last November the liaison to the auditorium governing board for two years (since he was the school board chairman), heard of it. He had difficulty finding words to speak.

Lisa McDevitt, directing. (© FlaglerLive)

Lisa McDevitt, directing. (© FlaglerLive)

“I knew she was ill, I didn’t know that she was that ill,” Tucker said. “She ran this auditorium well, people liked her, she brought in shows, she gave back to the community, she had a huge impact on the arts in Flagler County. She’ll be missed.” He said the auditorium is not an easy organization to run because it answers to so many concerns–its own governing board, the school board, the schools themselves, the vendors and arts groups who perform there. McDevitt managed it, Tucker said, “and she did it very well.”

Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland knew McDevitt professionally and personally. “She was passionate about opening opportunities for our youths in the arts and her focus in bringing diverse performances to the stage was inspiring,” Holland said. “This is a loss for the auditorium, for the community, but most of all her children. My heart and prayers are with them through this very difficult time.”

Craig Flagler Palms Funeral Home will announce services in the next 24 hours. A celebration of McDevitt’s life is also likely at the auditorium in the near future.

lisa mcdevitt

(© FlaglerLive)

Craig Flagler Palms provided the following obituary on Jan. 24:

Lisa E. McDevitt passed away on January 21, 2019 surrounded by her loving family and friends at home. She was a prominent figure in the Flagler County marketing and business for the last 16 years. Calling Flagler County her home for nearly 43 years, Lisa spent 10 years before joining the auditorium promoting fine art and craft shows across the country. She has brought many world renowned professional entertainers to Flagler County. Lisa created and organized a variety of fund raising events for arts in education programs that provide scholarships for fine, technical and performing art students. Currently undergoing her first facility renovation, new construction and master plan project for the Flagler Auditorium, Lisa believed that as a society, we must preserve the arts for future generations and that an investment in the arts is an investment in your community. She was actively involved in city, county, and school district activities. She helped or served on many non-profit organizations and committees in Flagler County, including the Flagler Beach Museum, Kiwanis, Rotary, Open Door Ministries, Florida Hospital Flagler Foundation and Visit Flagler. She currently holds a position as an ex officio member of the Flagler Auditorium Governing Board. Lisa was a member of the Florida Facility Managers Association, Florida Professional Presenters Consortium, North American Preforming Arts Managers and Agents, Florida Cultural Alliance, Florida Alliance for Arts Education, Citizens for Florida Arts and the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. Lovingly she is survived by her family, her children, Jaclyn, Jeffrey, John and James, her step-mother, Virginia Cascone, her brother Neil and his wife Maureen, her sisters, Cheryl Edwards and her husband John, and Jean Olsen and her husband Emerson, several nieces, nephews, and thousands of students whose life she affected throughout her career at the Flagler Auditorium. As we gather to celebrate the life and legacy of Lisa McDevitt, we ask that you come to this celebration with an open and giving heart and desire to pay tribute to a leader who cared for the Arts of Flagler County for many years. Please share your thoughts and memories of Lisa at Arrangements are in the care and trust of Craig-Flagler Palms Funeral Home. “The Show Must Go On !”

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6 Responses for “Lisa McDevitt, a Force Behind Flagler Auditorium and Arts Education, Dies at 58”

  1. ASF says:

    Rest in Peace. If a legacy of love is our afterlife, she will most certainly live on. My most sincere condolences to her family and friends.

  2. DC says:

    Rest in Peace beautiful Lisa, you will be missed. Love you so…..
    Praying for her children and family.

  3. Arlene Mingils says:

    What a lovely person and genuine soul. You will be missed dearly. Rest in Peace Ms. Lisa. Our condolences to the family. This is just so very sad.

  4. DAW says:

    I will remember Lisa with that beautiful smile on her face! Always happy to see you! Lisa was a wonderful mother and an enthusiastic director.

  5. palmcoaster says:

    Very sorry to learn about Lisa. She was a very nice always smiling lady! May

  6. richard a bancroft says:

    She gave her heart and soul to the Flagler Auditorium, maybe we can rename it after her in her honor. RIP lisa.

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