Dave Graham has about as many interesting stories hidden away in his personal repertoire as the Mount Baker Theatre has chair hinges to be oiled, guests to be ushered to their seats and set pieces to build.
He was born in Seattle, but spent much of his life in Honolulu before moving back to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s. When he was in high school in the 1970s in Honolulu, he got his pilot's license. He flew across the country three times in small planes, but says it's now been several years since he last flew, mostly for economic reasons.
"I decided that if I never fly again, I could live with that," Graham says. "I miss it, but I made the conscious decision that if I started flying again, I didn't want to start unless I could just continue on and keep flying."
Graham, 56, currently serves as the president of the Mount Baker Theatre's Steering Committee, or STARS, which oversees all of the volunteer committees that help MBT operate.
"The Steering Committee is one of those behind-the-scenes things you don't really think about, you know," Graham says. "It isn't real visible, but we do a lot."
Graham and his wife, Serena, moved to Bellingham in 2007. He worked as a contractor for many years, until the economic recession hit and landing jobs became rare. He and his brother owned a contracting company, which typically got 70 to 80 percent of its business for the year from attending home shows.
"In 2008 we had zero leads," Graham says. "We took that as a hint it was time to bail out and do something else."
He now works part time as a merchandiser for a company that helps supply Costco, and volunteers much of his free time for MBT.
He started volunteering at the theater just two years ago, but has already donated close to 1,200 hours of his time in various capacities.
Since he started working at MBT, Graham has served as maintenance chair, vice president and president of the Steering Committee, a role he has filled since August 2011. As president, Graham also serves as an ex-officio board member and attends monthly meetings.
Part of Graham's role as president of the Steering Committee is trying to find the right person for the right job and delegating leadership of the various sub-committees to people with strengths in those areas.
Graham helped start the Production Support Committee in 2011, to help with set building and the operation of plays and shows at the theater.
"The first thing I said was, 'I don't want this to be the Dave Graham support committee,'" Graham says.
He was able to find a retired community member who had participated in every aspect of putting on theatrical shows, from set building to costuming, to help lead the committee.
Graham's current pet project is helping restore a room that didn't get much attention when the theater underwent its last major renovation in 2009. When the theater opened more than 80 years ago, the room served as the theater manager's office. The small room got its name, "The Boss's Room" from a brass plate on the door that simply reads "Boss."
Graham has helped strip the room down, preparing it for remodeling, which he will help complete over the winter.
"The whole idea is to finish out that office space and turn it into a museum," Graham says. "We have a lot of archive materials - primarily old movie posters, hardware and old equipment from the original theater - that we're trying to hang onto and archive."
Surprisingly, Graham was never involved in theater before moving to Bellingham.
"I've always enjoyed the theater. I love live performance - doesn't matter to me if it's dancing, or singing, or musicals or whatever, I just love live performance," Graham says.
He had always admired musicals and theatrical work from afar, but now that he has more free time, he's more than happy to help put on shows in any way he can.
When he's not busy leading the theater's large crew of volunteers, Graham still steps in to usher shows, and he recently got the opportunity to help build the set for the repertory theater's performance of My Fair Lady.
"Typically this theater is what they call a road house," Graham says. "They cater to travelling road shows, whether it's a musical event or a Broadway play or whatever. They travel with their own equipment, crew, etc. For the main stage productions, we do it all ourselves."
Graham helped a crew of volunteers build the set for My Fair Lady in exactly one month. They built the set offsite in a warehouse, tore it down to transport it to the theater, and rebuilt it on stage.
For the set alone, the crew volunteered 800 hours of time to complete the build. Graham says in 2011, volunteers donated more than 11,000 hours of work to the theater, but he expects that number will be even higher this year.
The Bellingham Herald salutes Whatcom County people who help make our community a great place to live with our annual Ten Who Cared series. If you have a suggestion for someone we should salute next year, please email email@example.com.