Nafe Katter, longtime Connecticut actor, retired director of the University of Connecticut's acting program died Wednesday at a hospice facility in Summerfield, Fla., following a stroke Aug. 7. He was 87.
Katter was professor emeritus of theater at the university and benefactor of a campus theater that bears his name, where he taught acting from 1957 to 1997. He also served as director of performance studies. Katter also worked for 10 years in the Connecticut Repertory Theatre Nutmeg Summer Series as a director and actor.
Katter gave $1 million of his own money — he sold several pieces of real estate, including an apartment in London and a condominium in Florida — to help build a 241-seat thrust theater with a three-sided stage on the Storrs campus. The Nafe Katter Theatre opened in 2004.
He had also just recently made another significant donation to the School of Fine Arts at UConn to help fund construction of a production facility behind the Katter Theatre.
"I felt it was time to give back because the University of Connecticut had been so good to me," Katter said in a 2004 profile in The Hartford Courant. "I thought it would be a wonderful way to say thanks."
Katter, who lived in Manchester for many years before moving to Florida, performed and directed at theaters across the country, but was a regular at Hartford Stage under artistic directors Mark Lamos and Michael Wilson.
"A light has gone out at Hartford Stage," said Wilson from Houston where he was directing Horton Foote's "The Old Friends" at the Alley Theatre. Wilson said Katter represented an era of the resident acting company where audiences formed personal connections with versatile actors performing many parts over many seasons.
Katter, the son of a Lebanese baker from Saginaw, Mich., retired from UConn in 1997 but continued to act in theaters. He performed at the Hartford Stage opposite Betty Buckley, ("Camino Real"), Amanda Plummer ("Summer and Smoke") and Matthew Modine ("To Kill a Mockingbird.") But he may be most remembered by generations of young theatergoers for his roles as the solicitor and undertaker in the theater's annual production of ''A Christmas Carol.''
"His true gift was his talent, his love and his compassion," said Wilson.
Katter is survived by his sister Elnora Katter Hamady, and nieces and nephews and other family members in Florida and Michigan.