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Friends, family, students and audiences mourned the passing of Eleanora Mollie Mook-Fiddler, who succumbed after a courageous fight with ovarian cancer on Nov. 27.
Mollie was artistic director for A Theatre Group in Silverton for many summers.
The first in her family line born in Colorado, Eleanora entered this world via St. Anthony Central Hospital in west-central suburban Denver — setting an early precedent for a pioneering spirit that would characterize her adventurous, joyful, loving, productive, inspiring, sometimes chaotic, but tragically short life.
As the youngest of three siblings, Eleanora delighted her family from the day of her birth on Dec. 17, 1973, and throughout her childhood. Eleanora blossomed into a self-determined young woman. By first grade, she asked that peers and family refrain from calling her by baptismal name in favor of her brighter middle name, Mollie.
With her upbeat, can-do demeanor and striking physical beauty, Mollie gathered a wide and varied array of friends whom remained close up to her final days.
After graduating from Bear Creek High School in Lakewood, Colo., in 1994, she received her bachelor’s degree in acting and directing at the University of Colorado-Denver and her MFA from the University of Iowa in Iowa City (following such prestigious alums as Tennessee Williams and Gene Wilder) while serving as a graduate teaching assistant.
Her acting credits range from the lead role as the dog in “Sylvia” to Alexandra in “O Pioneers!” In 2002, she performed in “The Nina Variations” at the International Chekhov Festival at the Alexandrinsky Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, the site of the first performance of Chekhov’s “The Seagull.”
Though she resided in New York City for nearly a year and a half to “make it big” as an actor (while working as a waitress and teaching a children’s theater course at Columbia University), she was lured back to Colorado with the promise of more steady work in academic and community theater.
As an instructor and theater chair, she directed more than 30 plays, including children’s productions, musicals and dramas.
In 2011, she worked in collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Sonja Nazario and award-winning playwright Tony Garcia to develop a staged adaptation of Nazario’s novel “Enrique’s Journey.” (The play received its world premiere in Denver and won The Denver Post’s Ovation Award for best play of 2011).
Throughout her illustrious career, she garnered many awards and prizes for teaching and directorial excellence. Mollie was known for her uncanny ability to bring out the best in everyone — on the stage and otherwise.
She served as the artistic director of A Theatre Group, a seasonal community theater in Silverton, where she worked many summers as a young adult and befriended David Fiddler, her future husband and now EMS Captain with the Durango Fire Protection District.
They married in Las Vegas in May 31, 2008 and eventually relocated to Farmington. N.M., where she chaired the theater program at San Juan College. Involved in a number of acclaimed plays, her production of “The Laramie Project” helped change attitudes and preconceptions about homosexuality among residents of the rural desert town.
Unfortunately, Mollie’s personal and professional lives were disrupted when she was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer at the age of 37. Because of her relative youth, oncologists put her on an aggressive chemotherapy treatment after a successful surgery with hopes of obliterating the disease forever.
Though she enjoyed a four-year reprieve, the cancer came back with a vengeance in 2015. When she proved to be “resistant” to chemo treatments, Mollie’s friends and family rallied to raise about $35,000 so that she could participate in experimental cancer-treatment trials at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Sadly, though, while Mollie’s participation in these trials may have advanced cancer research, they did not arrest the spread of the disease nor lead to a cure. Hence, she returned to a two-bedroom apartment in Denver called “The Birdhouse” with close proximity to family and quality medical care.
Not long ago, she began home hospice care in The Birdhouse, in a bed fit for a queen with glass shelves that displayed, among other things, 60 origami cranes her niece handmade for her and a portrait of Mollie’s beloved mutt, Polly. In her final days, she bid farewell to the people who loved her.
Mollie adamantly did not want to be remembered for how she died, but rather how she lived, which was to say boisterously and with passion — as if she somehow knew that her life would be short and she needed to make the best of it.
“She was loved by all who knew her and touched the lives of many,” said San Juan College President Dr. Toni Hopper Pendergrass, in a statement. “With an encouraging spirit, she generously shared her talents with students and co-workers. Mollie loved theatre and advocated for diversity and human rights, which often served as the foundation for much of her work. The positive impact she had on all, as well as her kind and thoughtful nature will forever remain with us.”
Mollie’s philosophy of life could best be summarized by the Prayer of Saint Francis, her favorite prayer: “O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
Mollie is survived by her husband, David; her mother, Annell, her brother, Bob and sister, Shannon; five adoring nieces and nephews and countless friends and family around the world.
Memorial services and a party for Mollie will be held at St. Jude’s Catholic Church and the University of Colorado Denver’s King Center on Dec. 17 (her birthday).
A scholarship fund is being set up in Mollie’s name.