Legendary Nashville critic Clara Hieronymus approaching 98th birthday

Legendary Nashville critic Clara Hieronymus approaching 98th birthday

A simple question about ATCA’s longtime secretary and distinguished Nashville critic Clara Hieronymus has generated an outpouring of affectionate tributes as she approaches her 98th birthday, July 25. It also reinforces the impact of social media and how we can embrace it.

During an ATCA excom meeting, Jay Handelman contacted Evans Donnell via Facebook to find out what he knew about how how Clara is doing. We last saw her in 2004 in San Francisco when she was honored during the launch of Under the Copper Beach: Conversations with American Theater Critics.

Rather than just guess, Evans contacted her son and spoke briefly to Clara herself, then wrote a brief note about the conversation on his Facebook page, generating numerous responses from friends and admirers.

Evans wrote:  “Legendary Tennessean journalist Clara Hieronymus is getting ready to celebrate her 98th birthday on July 25. Her son Bruce told me that while a stroke has impaired her memory, she’s doing pretty well physically most days. I got the privilege of speaking briefly to Ms. Hieronymus as well. Thanks Jay Handelman for encouraging me to check in one of the American Theatre Critics Association’s founders.”

The message quickly picked up 16 “likes” and several comments. Someone suggested honoring her at this year’s First Night Awards, while another noted that while everyone remembers her as a “sophisticated and genteel critic with far-reaching knowledge and impeccable taste,” he once worked with her on a hard-news investigative story that showed she was also “tough as nails, a real journalist of the old school. She’s a marvelous lady.”

Actor Danny Proctor said “there was a time when two words uttered backstage made your blood run cold… ‘Clara’s here.’ She skewered me on occasion but when she was pleased, I felt like a proud school boy.”

If you’d like to wish her a happy birthday, please post a message to ATCA’s Facebook page (you are linked to it, right?) and we’ll pass them along to her through her son, Bruce Hieronymus.

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