Charles Oliver • The Daily Citizen (www.daltondailycitizen.com) • Published June 3, 2016
Today, Grace Kling lives in New York City where she perfroms [sic] improvisational theater and stand up comedy.
But some of her earliest acting work was on the stage of Dalton Little Theater, and one of her earliest mentors was Gertrude “Tut” McFarland, a Dalton legend who has been involved with the Dalton Little Theater for more than 60 years.
“When I met her, I didn’t know anybody who did what I wanted to do, so she was really inspiring to me,” said Kling, a Dalton native. “She took me under her wing. She was another theater girl and she wanted to help me become a better actor.”
Kling was one of several speakers Thursday night to celebrate McFarland at the Farm during the Family Support Council’s Toast of the Town fundraiser.
Karen Townsend, fundraising chair for the Family Support Council, said Toast of the Town is the agency’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
“We look for someone to honor who is well known and very loved in the community,” she said. “And that’s exactly what Tut is. People love her. We are glad they came here to support us, but they also came here to show how much she means to them.”
Born July 19, 1926, at Hamilton Memorial Hospital in Dalton, McFarland graduated from Dalton High School in 1943 and then earned a bachelor of arts degree in speech and drama from LaGrange College.
She taught speech in Dalton Public Schools from 1947 to 1969. She then taught third grade until her retirement in 1991.
In addition to her work with the Dalton Little Theater, McFarland spent many summers studying acting and working in summer stock theater in different parts of the country.
She has also been active in Dalton First United Methodist Church and many local civic organizations.
McFarland said Thursday she was surprised to be selected the Toast of the Town.
“I’m really flattered. It’s an honor. It really is,” she said.
Jean Lowrey, the master of ceremonies for the event, said she has known McFarland all her life.
“We went to the same church. She and my aunt were very good friends,” she said. “I never took her class in school, but she probably taught half the people in this room. And those who didn’t have her as a teacher have worked with her in any one of a number of organizations that she has been so active it.”
Dalton attorney Steve Farrow was one of McFarland’s students when she taught elementary school.
“She was an amazing teacher. She made learning fun. She was creative, always doing new and interesting things,” he said. “My kids had her for Sunday school, so we’ve had a multi-generational connection her, as I’m sure many Dalton families have had. I can’t think of anyone who deserves this honor more.”
Kathryn Sellers said she and McFarland bonded through their mutual love of history.
“I’ve learned so much from her. She just has a passion for history, and her energy is amazing, especially for her age,” she said.
Lowrey said what made the night particularly special is people had a chance to honor McFarland while also supporting an organization that does so much good in the community.
The Family Support Council’s mission is to prevent and stop child abuse and neglect. Among other services, it provides residential services and life skills coaching to teen mothers, advocacy services for abused and neglected children, support groups and other activities for grandparents raising grandchildren and parenting classes.