Vechinsky played many roles in Janesville community

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staff, Gazette
Monday, June 17, 2013

— Asked to name her favorite role Dennis Vechinsky played, a former colleague in Janesville’s community theater scene knew the one for which he would be best remembered.

“Everybody’s going to say Tevye,” Laura Schuler said, recalling the patriarch at the heart of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“It was written for him,” said Jim Tropp, who co-founded Theatre Unlimited with Vechinsky in 1992.

“A role he had made famous in the community,” Schuler said.

Tevye was one of the many roles Dennis Vechinsky played in the 74 years between his birth in Janesville and his death Friday morning at home.

He was an actor, director and ambassador of local community theater projects; a teacher for nearly two decades and board member for one in the Janesville school system; an Army veteran, GM employee, banjo player and alumnus of Janesville Senior High School (class of 1957) and UW-Whitewater (class of 1974), according to an obituary.

Known as Mr. V, friends and colleagues remembered Vechinsky’s passion for theater and commitment to his hometown.

Tropp worked with Vechinsky on more than 20 productions, often as co-directors with Theatre Unlimited.

Their first production was “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1992, Tropp said. Vechinsky played Tevye, of course.

“I could’ve done that show 50 times with him,” Tropp said.

Schuler met Vechinsky during a production of “My Fair Lady” in 1996, and got to know him through a number of shows.

The last time Schuler saw him perform was in 2011, when he starred opposite his son, Scott, in a dinner theater mystery called “The G String Murders.”

There was a small script to the show, but Vechinsky and Schuler’s son made up most of the banter that made the show entertaining, Schuler said.

“That was pure Dennis,” Schuler said. “We would all feed off of it.”

Born and raised in Janesville, Vechinsky brought his varied perspectives to bear in his work on the school board, where he served from 1998-2008, former board member Tom Wolfe said.

“He had factory experience, he had classroom experience, he worked countless hours as a volunteer … not to mention the countless hours he spent on the board,” Wolfe said. “From all of his perspectives he was a great community member.”

Vechinsky is survived by his wife, Monica, sons Kevin and Scott, and five grandchildren, according to an obituary from Schneider Apfel Schneider & Schneider Funeral Home and Crematory.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Christian Church, 1909 Highland Ave., Janesville.

Last updated: 7:52 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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