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Lonny Chapman, Actor and Former Joplin, MO Resident, Dies at 87

By Guest Contributor


Lonny Chapman: Lonny Chapman — in his days at Joplin Junior College.Lonny Chapman: Lonny Chapman — in his days at Joplin Junior College.

Lonny Chapman, who went from Joplin, Mo. to become a stage and screen actor and North Hollywood, Calif. repertory theatre founder and artistic director, has died. He was 87.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Chapman, whose television and movie career spanned more than 50 years, died Oct. 12 of heart disease at Sherman Village Healthcare Center in North Hollywood, according to Janet Wood, a founding member of the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre.

Born in Tulsa, Okla. and raised in Joplin, Chapman was a graduate of Joplin Junior College, Missouri Southern State University’s predecessor institution. He was named “Outstanding Alumnus” at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo. in 2005.

After serving in combat during World War II, Chapman returned home with a determination to become an actor. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, Chapman hitchhiked to New York City in 1947 with his best friend from college, actor Dennis Weaver.

By 1950, Chapman had originated the role of Turk in the Broadway production of William Inge’s first play, Come Back, Little Sheba. Weaver was his understudy.

Chapman’s screen roles included parts in such movies as The Birds, East of Eden, The Reivers, Reindeer Games, and Nightwatch. On television he appeared in a wide variety of series including Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and McCloud, that starred his old friend, Dennis Weaver.

Chapman is survived by his wife of 65 years, Erma Dean, and son Wyley Dean Chapman.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a memorial service will be held at noon Dec. 2 at the Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood.

To read the Missouri Southern faculty/staff newsletter (Accents!) editor Stephen Smith’s interview with Chapman from 2005, visit

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