John Z. (Zimmer?) Ickes was one of the most recognized actors throughout the JayRob seasons, performing in three of the five plays in season one: “The Seven Year Itch,” “The Tender Trap” and “The Little Hut,” and adding a fourth: “The Moon is Blue,” in the second season. While he took at least two seasons away from JayRob, he continued to act in following JayRob seasons for years and even extended his community theatre career in the following ‘Stagedoor Comedy Playhouse’ era.
Well-known throughout the Sacramento Theatre scene, he also had roles in a few Hollywood films and TV shows in addition to his work as a Sacramento area radio and television announcer and as a marketing executive.
Upon his death on August 23, 2004, Sacramento Bee Theater Critic Marcus Crowder wrote the following obituary, which was published on Sunday, September 5, 2004.
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The stage was always home to marketing exec John Ickes
John Z. Ickes, a longtime Sacramento marketing executive and versatile actor, died of cancer Aug. 23 in his Galt home. He was 78.
Mr. Ickes was highly regarded by his colleagues in both theater and public relations as a man of great character and creativity.
Mr. Ickes was born in Pomeroy, Wash., on Sept. 15, 1925. By the time he graduated from Los Gatos High School in 1942, he had developed a lifelong love affair with the theater.
Of his high school years, Mr. Ickes wrote, “I performed every opportunity I had in plays and musical shows because I loved acting.”
He attended several colleges, including California State Universsity, Chico, and Stanford before graduating with honors from San Jose State in 1948. He moved to Sacramento in 1949, working as a radio announcer at KROY and an advertising copy writer.
In 1951, he performed in the first production in the Music Circus as Pete in “Show Boat.” He went on to act in 25 productions at the Music Circus and Broadway Series, in shows such as “South Pacific,” “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music” and “Oliver!”
Scott Eckern, artistic director for the California Musical Theatre, remembered: “He was terrific as Mr. Lundie in ‘Brigadoon’ two different times for us.
“I really wanted him to be a part of Music Circus last season when we opened the new facility because he was so much a part of the Music Circus family. He didn’t feel his health would permit him to make it up and down the aisles, so we recorded his voice for the role in Flo Ziegfeld in ‘Will Rogers Follies.’ ”
Mr. Ickes’ other community stage credits are even more extensive, as he worked at almost every theater in Sacramento, including Sacramento Civic, the Eaglet and the Stagedoor Comedy House.
Fellow public relations executive and actress Jean Runyon, who often performed with Mr. Ickes, said, “He was a leader in the theater scene for so many years. He was really marvelous and so versatile.”
Mr. Ickes received three Elly awards – best actor in “All My Sons,” best actor in “Cold Storage” and best supporting actor in “The Caine Mutiny” – and was a member of all the professional actors unions. He appeared in several feature films, including “Back to the Future 3,” and numerous television shows, including “Highway to Heaven” and “Nash Bridges.”
From 1951 through 1955, he worked in television as an announcer, writer and production manager. He held a position managing public relations and promotions for the California State Fair for four years and then became public relations manager for Aerojet from 1959 to 1974. He then owned and operated his own public relations agency from 1974 until 2000, when he retired from business. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994 from the Sacramento Public Relations Association.
Veteran Sacramento television news anchor Stan Atkinson recalled of Mr. Ickes, “John was a real gentleman and a great talent. I looked up to him. He was a bulwark of community theater, forever the prominent actor and director in town and very much the facilitator behind the scenes of a lot of the theater that happened in Sacramento in the early days. He was also very good at advertising. Just very much a class act.
“He was quite the guy about town in every regard and held in high regard throughout the community.”
John Z. Ickes
Born: Sept. 15, 1925
Died: Aug. 23, 2004
Remembered for: Business leader in marketing and advertising, professional actor, loving father
Survived by: Wife, Patricia; son, Devin Ickes; daughter, Erin Bloom of Lafayette; stepdaughter, Tess Ward of Santa Rosa; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren
Services: Private services will be held. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of John Z. Ickes to the American Red Cross, 8928 Volunteer Lane #100, Sacramento, CA 95826, or to the American Cancer Society by calling (800) 227-2345.