Honoring Ed Maxcy, an actor who served his country

May 24, 2007

It arrived in the mail last week: a large manila envelope with “Office of the Mayor” in the return address space. It sat in a “good intentions” pile on my desk for a few days. Probably wasn’t urgent, I thought. Probably a report on water quality or some propaganda for streetcars.

Memorial Day Program 225wWhen I finally found time to open the envelope and examine the contents, I discovered an invitation to attend the Special Veterans Memorial Council Memorial Day ceremonies, a brochure about “The Missing Man Table,” and a copy of the Memorial Day Program.

At first, I was mystified: Why me? Why this year? The invitations from the Madison Mayor’s Office are sent to the families of Madison veterans who have passed away since the previous Memorial Day. My father died in 1998.

I started reading the honor roll of Madison veterans printed in the program, searching for a clue. There were many names I recognized, but they belonged to friends, acquaintances, fellow Central High School alumni, not relatives.

Near the end of the list, I finally found the name that had generated the invitation: Edward S. Maxcy. His name was not listed under World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, or Desert Storm. It was listed under a classification we often forget: “Peace Time.”

Ed MaxcyEdward S. Maxcy, known to many people as Alexis Lauren, was an actor. He was drafted after he graduated from college and spent two years (1956-1958) in the U.S. Army, but few were aware of his military service. I knew about it because he’d mentioned it when I interviewed him in 2001 for a feature story published in the Wisconsin State Journal.

When Ed died last December, I served as special administrator for his estate, so my signature is on all the official documents, including the VA Form 40-1330 (Application for Standard Government Headstone or Marker). That’s probably why, although Ed was not a relative, I received the invitation

For every actor who can demand millions of dollars for his or her work, there are countless thousands who barely squeak by from month to month, who spend most of their lives living on the edge, or who must subsidize their art by working at other jobs. Despite hard work, dedication, and an enormous talent, circumstances forced Ed to spend most of his life living very frugally. There was no money in his modest estate to pay for an elaborate memorial or grave marker, but because Ed had served in the U.S. Army, he was eligible for a free standard government headstone.

A standard government marker contains certain mandatory inscriptions: “Name, Branch of Service, Year of Birth, and Year of Death.” Optional items include highest rank attained, awards, and war service. None of these optional items seemed appropriate for a man whose primary identity was actor, not soldier; but simply inscribing the stone with the mandatory items didn’t seem sufficient.

Enter Kathy Lange, deus ex machina. Kathy works at Forest Hill Cemetery and is one of the kindest, most helpful, and knowledgeable civil servants I’ve ever encountered. Kathy is the person who pointed out the fine print at the bottom of VA Form 40-1330, the part that reads, “ADDITIONAL ITEMS may be inscribed at government expense if they are requested on the initial application and space is available. Examples of acceptable items include terms of endearment, nicknames (in expressions such as “OUR BELOVED POPPY” OR “LOVINGLY CALLED DUTCH”), and military or civilian credentials or accomplishments such as DOCTOR, REVEREND, etc.”

Ed Maxcy Grave MarkerKathy wasn’t certain if what I wanted inscribed on Ed’s stone was “acceptable” but she encouraged me to submit the request, advising me that I’d probably receive a telephone call from the VA if there was a problem. My phone didn’t ring. The stone arrived and has been installed. The inscription, as you can see in the photo accompanying this post, honors Ed’s service to his country and his life in the theater.

Note: You may read Ed Maxcy’s obituary HERE.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous July 9, 2007 at 9:21 pm

Just found out Ed had passed away in the recent copy of “The Bostonian”..the BU alumni magazine. Marie Kaden and I knew him from 1953-55, and either I, or my late husband, Roland Carrier, were in a play together..he knew me as Ella Getchell. Marie is still in NH..but I moved to CA shortly after graduation in ’55. He was a wonderful guy..and we were both sorry to hear of his passing. I still have the yearbook! Thanks for the remembrance. ellacarrier@yahoo.com

Anonymous January 7, 2008 at 5:01 am

I took care of Ed for about five months through a senior care service called HomeInstead about a year before he died. I always enjoyed his company; he was a feisty little guy who loved the theater and his chosen profession, and he talked often about acting and movies – this was his life. I had no idea that he was ever in the Army, but I’m not surprised that he never mentioned it. Ed was not a soldier, but an actor and a teacher to a fault. The inscription you chose for the headstone is perfect.

Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 3:42 am

I knew this delightful man as Alexis Lauren – my acting coach. Alexis took me under his wing offering me opportunities (which I took) to grow as an actress. Thru his direction I discovered the many dementions hidden within my personality. Sadly, I lost touch with him shortly after moving to Chicago in 1989. Thank you for the life time gift of your craft – I will cherish it forever…. Fondly DJ

Anonymous July 16, 2010 at 2:35 am

I just learned of Alexis’s passing. I had recently dug out an old audiotape from 1979 or 1980 that Alexis made for me. I wanted to know what had become of him so thanks to the Internet, I learned. The audiotape was an astrological reading. He recorded this as he sat in Eileen Caddy’s bungalow at Findhorn. I lived in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles County at the time.

We can add to “actor and teacher,” astrologer, and a very good one. I had met Alexis in Los Angeles via our connections at Findhorn where he spent about eight years before returning to Madison. He was a bright, wise, funny and talented man. I am feeling regret that I did not keep up our correspondence or I didn’t get a chance to thank him again for his excellent reading. I recall he was also an author. I had given my copy of his book to a friend so cannot verify the title. Here was a man who added to the world.

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