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Subject: Broadway Actress Nola Fairbanks

Dies at 96
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Date Posted: Monday, March 01, 03:14:43pm

Nola Josephine (Modine) "Fairbanks" Larkin
Dec 10, 1924 - Feb 8, 2021

Nola Josephine Modine-Larkin "Fairbanks" died on February 8, 2021 at The Nathaniel Witherell in Greenwich, Connecticut following an 11-month separation from her family due to COVID-19. She was surrounded by her four children in her final hours. She was 96. The granddaughter of Mormon pioneers, Nola was born in Santa Paula, California on December 10, 1924 to Alexander Revard Modine and Zella Vonola (Fairbanks) Modine.

Raised during the height of the Depression, Nola was a natural performer and gifted with a beautiful soprano voice. As a child she decided she would either join the circus or become an actress. Her mother recognized her talents and took in wash to pay for dance and voice lessons. She and her brother Mark took classes from the Meglin Kiddies Dance School, where Shirley Temple was also a student.

She moved to Hollywood in 1942 with her mother. There, she launched her career, auditioning for Lionel Barrymore's production of the musical "Halloween" at the age of 17. She wound up performing at the Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Canteen and for the Standard Symphony Hour. She went on to complete two tours as a soloist with the Sonja Henie Ice Show. When the tour wrapped up in New York City, she decided to stay.

Once in New York, her career took off and she made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Cole Porter's "Out of This World." Soon after, she became the understudy to the lead actress and took over the role of Helen. Summer stock performances followed, including Miss Liberty with Dick Haymes, Die Fledermaus and Bloomer Girl. She next joined the Broadway cast of "Paint Your Wagon" where she acted opposite James Barton in the role of Jennifer Rumson. She took the show on tour, with Burl Ives in the role of her father, Ben. The role was strangely similar to her mother's own pioneer upbringing.

In 1952 she starred in the first musical production at the new Jones Beach Theatre in Long Island, New York. The Johann Strauss II operetta, "A Night In Venice," was produced by Mike Todd. Nola played the part of Ciboletta.

In 1954 she married her husband James Joseph Larkin and gave birth to their son Alex in November 1955.

After a winning performance on the Arthur Godfrey Radio Show, she appeared on his television show. Her final Broadway performance came when she replaced Florence Henderson in the lead role in Fanny co-starring Ezio Pinza.

Nola put her professional career on hold and moved with her family to Larchmont, New York in 1957, where she gave birth to her daughters Jennifer, Cecilia and Josephine. She poured her energy into raising her children, teaching them compassion and resilience and to laugh in the face of adversity. She also attended the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints, where she served as chorister for many years.

Nola moved with her family to Greenwich in 1968, where she lived until her death.

She was preceded in death by her parents Alex and Vonola, her husband Jim and her brothers Ralph, Wylder and Mark. She is survived by her son Alex (Nancy Formica), daughters Jenny (Chris Hough), Cecilia (David Webber), Josephine (Gordon Bennett), former son-in-law Jeffrey Klipstein as well as 17 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren who adored her. Nola also leaves behind her dear friend George Rozsa who filled her final years with joy. The family wishes to thank her devoted caregivers Gertrude Thomas and Marcia Grant who treated her like family. The family will host a celebration of her life when it is safe to do so in person.

Published in Greenwich Time on Feb. 27, 2021.


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