Determination is key to Albert Lea native’s success

Published 2:28 pm Saturday, June 7, 2008

It’s been a lifetime of hard work and dedication that has brought actress Marion Ross to where she is today.

During an interview with the Tribune Friday, Ross shared the ups and downs of her career in Hollywood and how she arrived to the successes she is known for.

“They told me in Hollywood, ‘You’re never going to make it, you’re not tough enough,’” Ross said. “But I was a Minnesota girl.”

Email newsletter signup

She said she can recall writing in her diary that someday she was going to be a famous actress who everyone would fall all over.

And that’s exactly what has happened.

From humble origins in Albert Lea, Ross is now known by millions of people.

Most known for her 11-year portrayal of “Mrs. C” on Happy Days, she has also received much recognition for her Broadway and national tour of “Arsenic and Old Lace” and national tour of “Steel Magnolias.”

She has acted on the television series “Brooklyn Bridge,” “Touched by an Angel,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “The Gilmore Girls,” to name a few, and has been nominated time and time again for Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

She appeared in live TV on CBS in “Life with Father,” which was the first live television show to be aired in color, and is most proud of performing with Noel Coward in “Blithe Spirit” live at CBS.

But all the dreams she had for herself as a child have only lead to the pinnacle of this weekend when the Albert Lea Civic Theatre officially became the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

Ross said when she found out about the rededication the building to be named in her ho nor, she was pleased at the decision but wasn’t overly excited about it. She went ahead and gave her approval of the name change.

But when she arrived in Albert Lea, she said, and saw the building on Friday — with the large sign of herself and the building labeled in her name — it hit her how special it really was.

“Now that I’ve come and seen it — it brings me to tears,” Ross said. “Of all the dreams I had, this is far more than I ever hoped for.”

She said she used to go down to Albert Lea’s library and read books on who’s who of famous people.

All her life she heard from her mother that she could do anything she set her mind to. And it’s that direction and drive that has helped to move her through the years from one project to the next.

“You can’t give that to anyone,” Ross said.

As she approaches her 80th birthday this year, she attributes a lot of her success to good health and hard work.

“Every day I work at my career,” Ross said. “I feel responsible for this career. You can somehow shape your own life.”

Ross and life-partner actor Paul Michael are looking forward to their upcoming production of “The Last Romance,” which was written by Joe DiPietro especially for the couple.

In the show, Ross and Michael are a widow and widower who meet and fall in love.

DiPietro has written many other productions, including, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and “Over the River and Through the Woods.”

Ross and Michael said they begin rehearsals on Aug. 11, and the play will open Sept. 4 and run through Nov. 9 in Kansas City, Mo.

When she heard that some people from Albert Lea might be coming down to watch the play, Ross responded by saying: “The people of Albert Lea are so generous, so wonderful. We love performing for them because they’re so enthusiastic.”

For more about the dedication of the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, pick up a copy of Monday’s Tribune or check out