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Her legacy
A Remarkable Life  
Coleen Gray Zeiser, was born Doris Bernice Jensen on October 23, 1922, in Staplehurst, Nebraska. At age 7 she moved with her family to Hutchinson, Minnesota. Coleen and her brother Merle attended church and school there. While attending Hutchinson Lutheran Sunday School she learned a song from the hymnal “I Saw Him in Childhood” an important moment in her life. There were Sunday Pop Concerts in Minnesota. At one of those concerts Dimitri Mitropoulos a composer and conductor came over to the bus and thanked the kids for attending. He said two things, which Coleen never forgot; “All beautiful things are simple” and “The truly great are humble.” After high school she attended Hamline University. Hamline had an a capella choir. “Dosie” (a nickname of Coleen’s), auditioned and sang pages 1-40 of a Bach motet from memory. The conductor was so impressed, that she was accepted to the choir in her freshman year. Doris graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following graduation, with $26 in her pocket, she took a Greyhound bus to California “to seek her fortune.” After working various jobs, she soon saved enough money to enroll at the University of Southern California to study art and to help pay her tuition, she worked in the University’s library. Coleen read in a local paper about the casting for a play titled “Letters to Lucerne”, at the Carl Heins Roth School of Drama. She auditioned and was given a lead part. Encouraged, she enrolled in the school and two months later her performance in “Brief Music”, caught the attention of Jack Pomeroy, an agent and Ivan Kahn, a talent scout for 20th Century-Fox. A screen test led to a contract, and Doris changed her name to Coleen Gray. Her first film appearance was in “State Fair” with Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain. Howard Hawks personally selected her for the key role of Fen in Red River with John Wayne in 1946. That led to a starring role in “Kiss of Death” in 1947; then Nightmare Alley with Tyrone Power; Tennessee’s Partner with Ronald Reagan and Riding High with Bing Crosby. Coleen did her own singing opposite Bing Crosby in that film. With a career that spanned more than four decades, Coleen was truly one of the great talents of our time. She starred in more than forty motion pictures over a fifteen year period, had a starring role on Broadway with Charlton Heston, and performed live for television; did a television series with Robert Young; was part of two long running soap operas, and hundreds of appearances on many of our favorite television shows. Coleen was also a talented artist. Her paintings have been exhibited in a number of galleries and as a part of group shows. She designed for a large national greeting card house as well. Her home is filled with her original art and photographs. Coleen and her husband, Bill Bidlack were looking for a Church in the 1960’s and found Bel Air Presbyterian. The first Sunday they attended, the choir sang "Alleluia". Coleen joined the choir. She sang in the church choir and for more than a decade with the non-profit choral group “Cantori Domino” which provided an opportunity to express her love of music through singing. Coleen had three interests in life, singing, painting and acting in that order. She also worked for many causes, including WAIF, the child adoption organization as President, the March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, American Red Cross, American Mental Health Association, Los Angeles Epilepsy Society, Junior Blind, Scouts of America, and Prison Fellowship. Her two children, Susan Amateau and Bruce Bidlack, her stepsons Steve and Rick, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren survive her. The love of her life was her husband Fritz Zeiser, who preceded her in death. Their 34 years together were the happiest and most fulfilling time of her life. Coleen touched the lives of every person she met and through her charity, stage, movie and television work, millions more. We celebrate a beautiful woman, a remarkable life, she was, Coleen.
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