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Grant Richey, former Paul Bunyan Playhouse star, dead at age 49

Grant Richey

Grant Richey, an actor, director and teacher, died last Thursday in Minneapolis after a 10-year battle with cancer.

But before Richey made a name for himself in Minneapolis and beyond, he spent 15 years with the Paul Bunyan Playhouse.

"He was just one of the wild, crazy and fun actors we could count on," recalled Becky Lueben, who serves on the Playhouse board of directors.

Richey was connected with Bemidji because his family had a cabin on Big Bass Lake, said Chris Keenan, who also serves on the Playhouse board of directors.

Richey, whose full name was William Grant Richey IV, had been going to the Playhouse since he was a kid, Keenan said.

"He was very talented, very much a comic," Keenan said. "He would make everyone laugh."

Richey's cancer had been in remission for 10 years before returning last summer, according to an article that ran in the Oakdale-Lake Elmo Review.

"He was one of the best talents we've ever had up here," recalled Mike Tangen, who serves as an adviser to the Playhouse board of directors.

Richey was a professional actor, director and teacher. He most recently was serving as the artistic director at North High School in North St. Paul, where he offered his creative talents in numerous productions.

In Bemidji, Richey spent at least 15 years with the Playhouse at its former location at Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge.

"He did many, many shows with us," Lueben said.

Richey's time with the Playhouse came to end before its 1991 move to the Historic Chief Theatre downtown.

But even after his Bemidji acting appearances stopped, Richey was still seen around town. He would visit the area every summer. Keenan recalls having seen Richey last summer when at a local grocery store.

"I remember him well," Lueben said. "I remember him with chuckles and love, always.

"He was just a great, funny man, a person of great substance."