PITTSFIELD >> Theresa C. "Teddi" Laurin, the founder and CEO of Laurin Publishing Co., a noted local philanthropist, and one of the driving forces behind the restoration of the Colonial Theatre, died at her home in Pittsfield on Thursday. She was 91.
Originally an executive secretary for the former E.D. Jones Co. in Pittsfield, Laurin became involved in the company that eventually became Laurin Publishing in 1962.
She became an editor working with Dr. Clifton Tuttle, a physicist with Eastman Kodak who had started Optical Publishing Co. in 1954 and published a small science directory.
Laurin and Tuttle formed a partnership. In 1964, Laurin and her late husband, Francis T. Laurin, bought the company. She launched the trade magazine, Optical Spectra, three years later, then became president of the company in 1973. Optical Spectra was renamed Photonics Spectra in 1982, while the firm that Tuttle started was renamed Laurin Publishing in March 1986.
Today, Laurin Publishing publishes business-to-business magazines, directories and websites, under the brand Photonics Media, that focus on optics, lasers, imaging and photonic component manufacturing. The company has over 80 employees in Pittsfield and at satellite branches and has editorial contributors from around the world.
In 2012, Laurin Publishing purchased the former KB Toys building at 100 West St. for $1.1 million after the structure had been vacant for three years. Laurin's son, Thomas, is the company's current president.
Pittsfield attorney Ralph Cianflone Jr., Laurin's brother, originally introduced his sister to Tuttle. He was looking for an executive secretary while she was looking for a new position after leaving the working world to raise her four children.
"She said she was cooking chicken all week and didn't know what to do with herself," Cianflone said.
He described his sister as a "hard worker" and an "outstanding woman. ... And I'm saying this in a very complimentary way; very aggressive."
Laurin received several honors during her business career. In 2000 she was honored as one of 15 Western Massachusetts "Women of Influence." She served on the boards of the Optical Society of America, the Engineering Council of the Optical Society of America and the American Business Press Publisher Committee.
In the community, Laurin served as the original president of the Colonial Theatre Association from 1999-2001. Her willingness to support the $21.6 million restoration of the historic theatre with time and money lent legitimacy to early fundraising efforts.
"Early on in the process the first executive director was housed and paid by Teddi," said Michael MacDonald, a former chairman of the Colonial's board. "We didn't have a building, we didn't have a budget, we didn't have anything, and Teddi paid 100 percent of the salary to house that person.
"There's no question that the Colonial Theatre project would not have happened if not for that early commitment by Teddi," he said.
"She was the primary and major force behind the Colonial," said Kate Maguire, CEO and artistic director of the Berkshire Theatre Group, which includes the Colonial.
In 2010, the Colonial's then-board of trustees unveiled a star in Laurin's name that is located in the theater's entranceway. During the unveiling ceremony, MacDonald referred to Laurin as "our Teddi."
He used the reference to compare Laurin's contributions to those of U.S. Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, who had died the year before.
"I sort of made the point that we had our own Teddi out here," he said.
Laurin also was a member of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., and the United Way Tocqueville Society, and she was a former member of the mayor's Economic Task Force in Pittsfield. She served as a trustee of the Berkshire Museum and Shakespeare & Co., and was an underwriter to Pittsfield's "Sheeptacular" project.
"She had such a love for the city of Pittsfield," said Maguire, who is also the president of Downtown Pittsfield Inc. "Sometimes with people in positions of power like that you can't get to know them very well. But she was a dear heart and very generous."
Laurin was married for 58 years to her husband, who died in 2009. She was also predeceased by a daughter, Diane Laurin.
In addition to her brother and sister-in-law, Laurin leaves three children, eight grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, and two sons-in-law.