Don Willman


Manage episode 283974218 series 1390309
By IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Don Willman came to South Bend with his mother at a young age. He became involved in the theater program at Central High School under famed director James Lewis Cassady. Cassady helped open a love for theater that stuck with Don.

As a teenager, Don met the love of his life. He and his partner Burt became both business partners, and life partners. They shared their lives for three decades until Burt’s death in 1998. Along the way, Don became a noted interior designer and artist. They also helped save the former Studebaker mansion from destruction. It’s reopened now as Tippecanoe Place, and operates as a restaurant.

Don’s involvement in theater, antiques, and design in South Bend and Chicago surrounded him with people familiar with gay culture. As a result, his experiences as an out gay man were mostly positive. Don doesn’t remember experiencing any discrimination from his mother, nor much from his friends and colleagues. He was able to be open about his life and his relationship, while so many others never had that luxury.

In 2014, Don told of his life’s work, his life’s love, and his experiences as a gay man living in South Bend.

Check out our LGBTQ Collection online at Michiana Memory, a partnership with the St. Joseph County Public Library. Our Collection is the first and only that shares the history of South Bend’s LGBTQ experience. See it online at

Title music, “History Explains Itself,” from Josh Spacek. Visit his page on the Free Music Archive,

63 episodes