Friends recall David Mohn, 80

David Mohn, the driving force behind the Bridge Theater and a founding member of the board of directors for Skene Manor Whitehall Preservation, Inc., died Saturday following a lengthy illness.

Friends and colleagues remembered Mohn as a tireless advocate for the community.

“He adopted Whitehall as his hometown and did a tremendous amount for the community,” said Frank Kingsley, a friend and member of board of directors for the Arts and Recreation Commission of Whitehall. “He was very dedicated and very interested in helping Whitehall.”
”David was an envisionary. He loved Whitehall and wanted so much for it,” said Catherine Manuele, president of the Skene Manor Preservation Inc. “He did so many, many things for the community. He was a good man and was very high on my list. It’s a big loss.”

Born in Reading, Pa., Mohn grew up in West Orange, N.J. and went on to earn a degree in electrical engineering. Following stint in the U.S. Army and a very successful career as president of CSDC and DLM Associates, a firm that designed and developed semiconductor chips and assemblies for companies across the world, Mohn and his wife, village trustee Marjorie Mohn, visited Whitehall and fell in love with the community.

They purchased a home across from the Liberty Marina and a year later bought the former Whitehall Times building.

 

Getting involved

Once established, David Mohn wasted no time in becoming an active part of the community. He served as president of the Chamber of Commerce for many years, and was instrumental in the preservation of the Skene Manor.

“I have to say the four people who were most prominent in the establishment of the organization were Dave and his wife Marge, and Joanne and Fred Ingalls. They got the interest piqued in saving the building,” said Manuele.

But he will be most remembered for his efforts to build the Bridge Theater.

In the late 1990s the downtown business association was looking for ways to promote Whitehall and one of the ideas raised was the arts. Mohn went about looking for a venue to stage productions and dreamed up the Bridge Theater, a 100-foot-long space built on the Clinton Avenue bridge, spanning lock 12 and the northern terminus of the Champlain Canal.

Martin Kelly, artistic director for the Bridge Theater, said Mohn almost single-handedly built the theater.

“He designed the theater, got permission from the New York State DOT, secured $25,000 from the bank, organized volunteers and got help from the community college and BOCES.”

“He worked on it all the time. Even in the winter, when it was miserable outside, he would be down there working on it,” said Kingsley.

For nearly a decade, the Bridge Theater, which was affectionately described as “America’s most unique” theater, played host to theatrical productions and cabarets, until 2009, when it was shut down after a DOT inspection found the underlying structure unsafe.

 

Bouncing back

“That was a big blow to him,” Kingsley said, “but he rolled with the punches and built a stage down at Cooke’s Island.”

“He was a force. He just kept going even with all the setbacks,” said Kelly.

Although an illness kept him from being as active with the theater this year, Kelly said he “still had his hands in things, trying to keep it going.”

Kelly said he had a chance to sit with Mohn in the days before he passed and Mohn was asking about the theater and Kelly’s latest project.

“He was still interested until the end. I’ll never forget him. I’m 87 and he helped me find another career. He was a fan as well as a producer,” Kelly said.

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