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Originally published April 11, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Page modified April 12, 2011 at 5:08 PM

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Arts-community fixture Melissa Hines remembered; public memorial is May 9

Seattle arts-community fixture Melissa Hines died April 8 of cancer. A public memorial service is set for May 9 at Town Hall.

Seattle Times theater critic

They don't get the audience applause and the critical acclaim. But without the hard work and passionate commitment of behind-the-scenes people like Melissa Hines, Seattle would not have the vibrant performing arts scene the city is celebrated for.

Ms. Hines died Friday (April 8) at her home in Seattle, from a rare form of cancer, leiomyosarcoma. She was 63.

A Berkeley, Calif., native who grew up in Seattle and Washington. D.C., Ms. Hines developed a strong interest in theater when she was a graduate student in English at the University of Washington.

Starting with a job in the Empty Space Theatre box office in 1978, Ms. Hines worked her way up to managing director of the company, then one of the city's most dynamic drama institutions.

She spent 23 years guiding the theater, working closely with founding artistic director M. Burke Walker and his successors.

After departing Empty Space in 2001, Ms. Hines spent two years as the director of development at the Seattle International Children's Festival (now Giant Magnet).

From 2004 until her death, she was the director of cultural partnerships at the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. Among her duties was overseeing the office's arts-education programs in Seattle Public Schools.

Imposingly tall and determined yet unfailingly soft-spoken and gracious, Ms. Hines was respected throughout the arts community for her skills and dedication. And she was beloved for her droll humor and generosity as a friend, colleague and mentor.

From 1996-2001, she served on the King County Arts Commission (now known as 4Culture). For years, she volunteered her time to numerous community organizations.

"She was always fair, always considerate, and she brought her wealth of experience to everything she did," said Jim Kelly, executive director of 4Culture.

"I never saw Melissa angry. She was just someone who was incredibly thoughtful and articulate. She was a real force, and so many people in this town were touched by her."

Ms. Hines' contributions were recognized with a Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award from Theatre Puget Sound, an Arts Administrator of the Year Award from the Business Volunteers for the Arts, and a Corporate Council for the Arts Unsung Hero Award.

Ms. Hines is survived by her sisters, Nancy Hines and Martha Hines, both of Seattle.

A public memorial service is at 3-5 p.m. May 9 at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

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