Notable people from Kenosha County, Part I
The city of Kenosha, and Kenosha County, has served as the birthplace and home of quite a few famous and successful people.
The list of Kenoshans who have touched the nation and impacted the world is actually quite extensive, so for brevity’s sake, here are seven notable people you might not have known were born in Kenosha, Wis.
7. Orson Welles (actor/writer/director)
Okay, so you probably knew this one. It seems that one can’t talk to any film buff in the local area without the mention that Kenosha served as the birthplace of the director, writer and actor of “Citizen Kane” himself. Welles was born in a home in the Library Park District of the city on May 6, 1915.
Welles lived in the city until he was 5 years old, at which time his parents separated, and young Welles moved to Chicago. Welles started acting on the stage in the 1930s, making his New York stage debut in 1934. In the late 30s, Welles produced "The Mercury Theatre on the Air" with John Houseman. The theatre became famous for its broadcast version of "The War of the Worlds."
Wells went on to have a successful career as a writer, actor and director, winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “Citizen Kane,” as well as many other accolades throughout his career.
He died on Oct. 10, 1985 at the age of 70.
Though long dead, his final film, "The Other Side of the Wind," was released on Netflix in 2018. The Netflix plot synopsis for the film reads, "On the last day of his life, a legendary director struggles to complete a new project and contemplates his legacy."
6. Al Molinaro (actor)
Can one think of “Happy Days” without the image of Arnold Drive-In owner Al Delvecchio popping up in their mind?
Yes, the distinguished face of Al Delvecchio belongs to none other than Kenoshan Al Molinaro.
Born in Kenosha on June 24, 1919, Molinaro grew up in the Columbus Park neighborhood of the city as the son of Italian immigrants from Calabria, Italy.
In fact, Molinaro’s father was a leader of the Kenosha Italian community, his brother served as district attorney and a municipal judge, and another sibling served in the state Assembly.
While his family stayed in the area for most of their lives, a starry-eyed Molinaro left Kenosha in his early twenties, heading off to the West Coast to pursue an acting dream.
Molinaro died on Oct. 30, 2015, at the age of 96.
5. John Stephenson (actor/voice actor)
Younger members of the community will probably look at John Stephenson’s name and say, “Who?” However, older Kenoshans will most likely recognize his voice if they watched cartoons as a child.
Stephenson, born in Kenosha on Aug. 9, 1923, worked for Hanna-Barbera Productions for a few decades, providing voice work for characters on “Top Cat,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Breezly and Sneezly,” “Squiddly Diddly,” and “The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show,” among others.
He also voiced Mr. Arable in the 1976 cartoon film adaptation of "Charlotte's Web."
However, most notably, he provided the voice for Fred Flinstone’s boss, Mr. Slate, on “The Flinstones” throughout the series’ original run and beyond.
He also served as the end narrator of the show “Dragnet” (1967-1970), recapping the fate of criminals at the end of every episode.
Stephenson died in Los Angeles on May 15, 2015, at the age of 91.
4. Don Ameche (actor)
Don Ameche, born May 31, 1908, as Dominic Felix Amici, was an American actor who performed on the radio, on television and in film, enjoying a long career from the 1930s into the 1990s.
Ameche started his film career with an uncredited part in a 1935 production of “Dante’s Inferno” produced by Fox Corporation, later 20th Century Fox. He garnered his first leading roles in Fox’s production of “Sins of Man” in 1936 and in Ramona, the studio’s first color film.
Among the roles Ameche is most remembered for is “The Story of Alexander Graham Bell” in 1939 — which, according to a 1993 article in The Gazette (Cedar Rapids-Iowa City) led to a generation of people referring to a telephone as the “ameche”.
Though Ameche’s film career slowed in the late 1940s, he found it resurrected with a role in the 1983 Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd comedy “Trading Places.” And in 1986, he won an Academy Award for his role in the film “Cocoon”.
The last films of Ameche’s career were “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” and “Corrina, Corrina,” which was completed days before his death on Dec. 6, 1993, in Scottzdale, Ariz.
3. Margaret Landon (author)
It is quite possible that many do not know Landon or have heard of her name; however, one could bet top money that you know a film her work inspired: “The King and I”.
Yes, Landon, born Sept. 7, 1903, in Somers, Wis., penned the book “Anna and the King of Siam” — based on Anna Leonowens, a governess in the court of King Mongkut — that later was adapted by 20th Century Fox in 1946.
Landon wrote the book while raising her first three children with her husband Kenneth while serving as Presbyterian missionaries and running a mission school in Trang in Siam (Thailand), while reading extensively about the country.
It was during this time that she learned of the late 19th-century governess and felt inspired to write about her when the family returned to America in 1937, publishing the book in 1944.
Landon lived to be 90 years old, dying in Alexandria, Va., on Dec. 4, 1993.
2. Jim Rygiel (visual effects)
There is no doubt that many local residents and people all over the world have seen the work of Jim Rygiel in some form.
Born Feb. 17, 1955, in the city of Kenosha, where he grew up and attended St. Joseph Catholic High School, Rygiel has made a name for himself in the visual effects field, working on big films such as “Godzilla” (2014), “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Lord of the Rings” series, and, in an odd connection to another Kenosha County resident, “Anna and the King”, among many other films.
He has also served as the visual effects supervisor on such TV shows as “American Horror Story,” “Preacher,” “Lost in Space (2019),” “The Orville,” “True Detective,” “Preacher” and “American Crime Story”, just to name a few.
Rygiel started his career in visual effects in 1980, joining Pacific Electric Pictures, according to his Linkedin page, before moving on to Digital Productions in 1983.
In 1989, Rygiel formed and headed a computer animation department for Boss Film Studios, during which time he supervised films such as “Starship Troopers, Air Force One”, “Cliffhanger,” “Batman Returns,” “Alien III,” and “Ghost.”
In 2002, he received both an Academy Award and the British Academy of Film and Television arts award for Best Visual Effects for his work on “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.”
Rygiel continues to work in his field and is currently serves as the executive visual effects supervisor at FuseFX in Los Angeles.
1. Mark Ruffalo (actor)
Were you turning green with anger the further down the list you got without seeing a mention of this actor?
That’s right, the Hulk is from Kenosha.
Mark Ruffalo, born Nov. 22, 1967, in Kenosha, has had a career spanning from the stage to arguably the biggest film franchise of all time.
Ruffalo first got noticed on the stage in an off-Broadway production of “This is Our Youth,” winning a Lucille Award for Best Actor. After gaining attention on stage, Ruffalo transitioned to film through his role in the film “You Can Count on Me” in 2000.
After rave reviews from his performance, Ruffalo would go on to star in such films as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Zodiac”, “Shutter Island” and “The Kids are Alright”.
However, in recent years, Ruffalo has been most recognized for his role as Bruce Banner/The Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from the first “Avengers” film through the culmination of the first three phases of the Marvel universe films in “Avengers: Endgame”, and possibly into future phases of the cinematic universe.
Ruffalo can next be seen in the film "Dark Waters", which will be released in theaters on Nov. 22.
In the end, Ruffalo, and others on this list, prove that one can gain accolades, attention, fame and do notable things with their life — even if they’re from “Kenowhere.”
Do you know of other notable people from Kenosha County that deserve a spot on this list? Send them to Kenosha News Digital Editor Daniel Thompson at email@example.com.
Notable People from Kenosha County, Part II
After recently compiling a list of seven notable people you may not have known were from Kenosha County, the Kenosha News received many messages and emails containing the names of other actors, athletes and people of note from various industries that have come from Kenosha County.
Here are 11 more notable people that have been confirmed to be from Kenosha County:
11. Daniel Travanti (actor)
Daniel J. Travanti, best known for his TV portrayal as Capt. Frank Furillo on “Hill Street Blues,” was born in Kenosha on March 17, 1940.
According to IMDb, the 79-year-old actor has had roles in television dating back to the late 1950s, with a role playing a British soldier in “Little Moon of Alban” in 1958. Aside from his time on “Hill Street Blues, throughout his career Travanti has had roles in such TV shows as “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “Perry Mason,” “Lost in Space,” “Mod Squad,” “Mission: Impossible,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Gunsmoke,” “Prison Break,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Defenders,” “Boss,” “Chicago Med” and, most recently, “NCIS: Los Angeles.”
Travanti’s career includes two Emmys and a Golden Globe for his performance as Furillo. He was also nominated for CableACE awards for “A Case of Libel,” “Murrow” and “How to Raise a Streetsmart Child.”
Travanti was even recently honored for his accomplishments as an entertainer and for giving back to the Kenosha community at the annual Columbus Day Banquet held by the Italian American Society of Kenosha in October.
A multiple award-winning actor, Travanti, 79, a Kenosha native, shared personal anecdotes as a young budding performer both on stage and as a Bradford High School football player at the banquet.
“If that is gratitude, I feel it,” he said, at that time, on the verge of tears. “Thank you for inviting me here.”
10. Thom Racina (writer/novelist)
Thom Racina, American television writer and novelist, was born in the city of Kenosha on June 4, 1946, and went to school in Albuquerque and Chicago, where he got his MFA in Theatre Arts and Directing, according to Racina’s official website.
In his career as a writer, Racina has served on the shows Family, writing the episode “Sleeping Over”, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, Another World, Generations, Dangerous Women, Santa Barbara, Friends and Lovers, The Young and the Restless, and One Life to Live.
Racina has also authored several children’s musicals, including “Allison Wonderland,” The Wizard of Odds,” “The Marvelous Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes,” and a musical version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
As a novelist, his works include “Snow Angel,” “Hidden Agenda,” “Secret Weekend,” “The Madman’s Diary,” “Never Forget,” “Deadly Games,” and “Deep Freeze.”
Outside of his work, Racina also has a fascinating post on his website about two years that a young Brad Pitt lived with him in California, where Racina lived for 25 years.
9. Dick Bosman (baseball player)
Athlete Dick Bosman was born in Kenosha as Richard Allen Bosman on Feb. 17, 1944, the son of George and Nella Bosman, according to the Society of American Baseball Research. Though his father was a farmer, he also was a very good fast-pitch softball player and would serve as an early baseball influence in Bosman’s life.
Bosman was also influenced by his high school baseball coach, Andy Smith, while attending Bradford High School, during which time he started in the 1962 state championship, according to SABR. After high school Bosman signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but later decided to delay a pro career to attend UW-Parkside.
After a year at Parkside, Bosman spent time in the Rookie League and also played for the Class-A Lexington Giants.
The right-handed pitcher made his MLB debut with the Washington Senators on June 1, 1966, and also played for the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics. He retired after the 1976 season with a career record of 82-85 and a 3.67 ERA in 306 games (229 starts).
Bosman led the American League with a 2.19 ERA while pitching for the Senators in 1969. His most memorable moment came on July 19, 1974, while with the Indians when he fired a no-hitter in a 4-0 victory over the A’s at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.
He got into professional coaching in 1986 and worked at the big-league level as a pitching coach for the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Rangers.
Bosman retired from coaching after the 2018 season.
8. Bert I. Gordon (filmmaker)
If you love old-school, horror B-movies, you’ve likely encountered the work of Kenosha native Bert I. Gordon.
Gordon, born in Kenosha on Sept. 24, 1922, served as the director for science fiction and horror films from 1954 to 2015, with works such as “The Amazing Colossal Man,” “Earth vs. The Spider,” “War of the Colossal Beast,” Beginning of the End,” and “Village of the Giants.”
According to Turner Classic Movies, Gordon, who was known as “Mister B.I.G., routinely used rear-projection images to portray his enormous creatures in his films.
Gordon’s career sprung from a 16mm camera that his aunt gave him for his 13th birthday, according to “Science Fiction Film Directors, 1895-1998” by Dennis Fischer. Gordon attended the University of Wisconsin and also served in the U.S. Air Force in early adulthood. In breaking into the film industry, Gordon got his start directing a $1,200 commercial for Chevrolet and then commercials for Generals Mills and Plymouth.
Moving into TV, Gordon worked on the tv series “Cowboy G-Men and as a production supervisor on Racket Squad in the early 1950s. Gordon broke into making films by photographing and editing Tom Gries’ film “Serpent Island,” an experience that led him to decide that he could direct and produce films himself, according to Fishcer’s book, leading to his decades-long film career.
While Gordon has many film credits spanning the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, he slowed down in the 1980s, and only had one film credit in the ‘90s. Gordon’s last directing credit is attached to 2015’s “Secrets of a Psychopath,” which he also served as the screenwriter on.
7. Edward F. Cline (film director/screenwriter/actor)
Edward Francis Cline may not be a well-noted name to most people; however, he worked with some of the most notable names of his time during his stint in the film industry.
Cline, born in Kenosha on Nov. 4, 1891, started his film career working for Keystone Studios in Edendale, Calif., in 1914, where he supported some shorts made by Charlie Chaplin.
However, Cline would see one of his greatest partnerships with none other than Buster Keaton. Cline became the co-director of Keaton’s short films, such as 1921’s “Hard Luck”, and co-directed Keaton’s first feature film “Three Ages,” which debuted in 1923,” according to the AFI catalog.
Cline’s working relationship with Buster Keaton is partially documented in the 1995 book “Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase” written by Marion Meade.
Cline would go on to work with comedian W.C. Fields on multiple films during his time working for Paramount, including the film “Million Dollar Legs,” which stared Fields, Andy Clyde, Ben Turpin and Hank Mann, who had previous worked with Keystone Studios.
The story and details of Cline’s partnership is contained in the pages of the 2003 book “W.C. Fields: A Biography” written by James Curtis. In the book, Assistant director Edward Montagne described Cline and Fields’ working relationship as, "Fields and Cline were basically the same type. They both had great comedy sense... With actors, if he thought they were on the right track, he'd let them go."
In the last leg of his career, Cline would go on to work for both Universal Pictures and Monogram Pictures. His last film, “Jiggs and Maggie in Court,” co-directed with William Beaudine, came out in December 1948, according to the AFI Catalog.
Cline died of cirrhosis in Hollywood, Calif., on May 22, 1961, at the age of 69.
6. Will Schaefer (composer)
If you’re a fan of classic TV shows, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the work of Will Schaefer.
Schaefer, born in Kenosha on Nov. 23, 1928, to Helmuth W. Schaefer and Esther Mueller Schaefer, according to his obituary printed in the Desert Sun.
Schaefer likely gained his interest in music from his father, who was a founder of the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra. Schaefer attended Mary D. Bradford High School in his youth before going to college for his bachelor’s degree at De Paul University and later Northwestern University for a master’s degree. He earned a Distinguished Alumni Award from De Paul University later in his life, according to his obituary.
According to an article on Schaefer's death in the Oklahoman, during the Korean War, Schaefer was the arranger and assistant conductor for the U.S. Fifth Army Band stationed at Fort Sheridan, Ill. During this time, he wrote music for “Radio Free Europe” and “The Voice of America.”
After leaving the service, Schaefer went to New York City to try to make a name for himself in the early 1950s, an experience he recalled in an interview with Palm Springs Life in November 2006.
“Those were lean years,” he told Palm Springs Life. “I could only afford to eat five days out of seven, but I stuck it out. In my heart, I really believed I had what it took to make it.”
Schaefer’s belief in himself proved warranted. He would go on to make a name for himself composing TV commercials and later worked for The Walt Disney Co. composing scores for the “Wonderful World of Disney” TV show.
Schaefer would go on to write music for such TV shows as “The Flinstones,” “The Jetsons,” “Scooby-Doo,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “The Flying Nun,” “Gunsmoke” and “Barnaby Jones.”
You also have Schaefer to partly credit for the song “It’s a Small World” at Disney parks, as Schaefer reworked the song for Disney “to give it an international flavor corresponding to different rooms in the theme park ride,” according to the Oklahoman.
During his career, Schaefer garnered three Clio Awards, was nominated for an Emmy for his score of the Walt Disney TV movie “The Skytrap,” and was nominated for a Pullitzer Prize for his concert Piece “The Sound of America,” which was commissioned for the country’s 1976 bicentennial celebration.
Schaefer died from cancer at the age of 78 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
5. Concetta Tomei (actor)
Actress Concetta Tomei was born in Kenosha on Dec. 30, 1945.
Unlike many who pursue the acting craft, Tomei did not start her adult life as an actress, though she had always dreamed of being a performer, according to a 2007 interview with Talkin’ Broadway.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a teaching degree, and spent four years teaching seventh-grade English and social studies. After four years of teaching, she auditioned for the Goodman School in Chicago, and was accepted. It was during this time that her parents financially supported her dream, as they had for much of her life – her father working two jobs to put her through Goodman School.
Tomei would go on to act on Broadway, making her debut in 1980 in “The Elephant Man,” during which she worked with music icon David Bowie, who was the star of the show. She described Bowie to Talkin’ Broadway as “A gentleman and a gentle man, in all the best sense of those words.”
She would go on to perform in many Broadway shows, including working with actor Kevin Kline in “Richard III”.
Tomei has had notable television roles as Major Lila Garreau in ABC’s “China Beach,” as Lynda Hansen on NBC’s “Providence,” Susan Hauber on NBC’s “L.A. Law“ and as Dr. Estelle Kramer on CBS’ “Falcon Crest.”
She has also starred in the films “The List,” “View from the Top,” “Purpose,” “The Muse,” “Deep Impact,” “Out to Sea,” “Twenty Bucks,” and “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” in which she played the titular mom.
Tomei’s latest acting credit is as “Nemo” on the TV series “Abby’s”.
4. Kendra Scott (entrepreneur)
Born in Kenosha on March 27, 1974, Kendra Scott, one of the nation’s most successful female entrepreneurs is currently running a billion-dollar jewelry and lifestyle empire.
Scott’s journey to becoming one of the wealthiest female entrepreneurs in America, according to Forbes magazine, started in 2002 with $500 in the basement of her home in Austin, Texas. She moved to Austin at age 19.
Scott parlayed that modest investment into eventually becoming the chairwoman, CEO and lead designer at Kendra Scott LLC. Scott’s company is involved in fashion jewelry, fine jewelry, home décor and other beauty products.
Scott’s products are now featured in more than 90 stand-alone stores and numerous department stores, and she employs more than 2,000 people. A pop-up store featuring Scott’s creations will be at the TEMPO Milwaukee event.
In an October interview with the Kenosha News, Scott gave some simple words of advice to people considering being an entrepreneur.
“Growing up in Kenosha, my family taught me a lesson that I hold close to my heart to this day: If you work hard, lead with passion and treat others with kindness, you can do anything,” Scott said. “That is my advice to every entrepreneur. Discover your passion and decide what matters most to your business. And always, always operate with kindness. You will not only have more joy in your own days, you will create more joy for the people around you. And to me, that is success.”
3 and 2. Trae Waynes and Melvin Gordon
OK. If you don’t know these two are from Kenosha, you’ve probably been either stuck in a bunker for decades or possibly in a coma.
Trae Waynes, born in Kenosha on July 25, 1992, and Melvin Gordon, born in Kenosha on April 13, 1993, are often linked together, for various reasons.
The NFL players – Gordon on the Chargers and Waynes on the Vikings – played for Bradford High High School’s football team, even though Waynes attended Harborside Academy for academic study. They were both also drafted into the NFL minutes apart from each other in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Though they’re now watched regularly by people all around the nation while displaying their athletic talent, in the local community, both are also know for their giving hearts.
The duo has co-hosted a free, non-contact youth camp in the community; participated in a dodgeball night of fun to benefit the Mahone Middle School Physical Education Activity Fund and Indian Trail High School track and field team; and have donated autographed footballs to local National Night Out events, among many other kind acts in the community.
If you’re living in the local community, there’s a good chance you’ll see one or both of the football stars lending a helping hand to different local causes several times a year in one form or another.
1. Cameron Steenhagen (dialogue and sound editor)
While you won’t see Kenosha native Cameron Steenhagen in front of the camera in his work, you’ve certainly benefited from it on the films he’s served on.
Born Sept. 2, 1969, in Kenosha, Steenhagen attended Kenosha schools, graduating from Tremper High School in 1987, according to his mother Marie Steenhagen. Ten years after graduating from Tremper, Steenhagen moved out to Los Angeles in 1997 to pursue work in films, landing his fist gig in the 1998 film “Gods and Monsters” as an assistant sound editor.
Since 1998, Steenhagen has worked steadily in the film industry, serving as a sound editor on many big movies, including a slew of Adam Sandler movies (“Eight Crazy Nights,” “Anger Management,” “50 First Dates,” “The Longest Yard,” “Click,” and “Reign Over Me,” to name a few), “Public Enemies,” “Horrible Bosses,” “Equilibrium,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “The Mule,” “Richard Jewell,” and “Joker.”
Steenhagen has also worked on the mini-series “When They See Us” and the Netflix series “Lost in Space”.
His name will also be seen in the end credits of the highly-anticipated film “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,” based on characters from DC Comics, according to the film’s listing on IMDb.