Nancy Thurow, legendary founder of the children’s theater company CTM, died Tuesday at her home in Wynwood Assisted Living Center in Madison.

Thurow, who never liked to reveal her age, exposed countless area children to theater’s magic and was a creative force in Madison for decades. With CTM, she produced 38 seasons of family-friendly productions featuring actors of all ages.

Thurow launched CTM in 1965 with two friends from Zeta Phi Eta, a communication arts fraternity, in response to the elimination of creative drama from Madison public schools. CTM’s debut production “Land of the Dragons” was followed in 1966 with Thurow’s adaptation of Winnie the Pooh called “The New Pooh,” which traveled widely.

In 1976, Thurow adapted Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a story that over the years became a CTM hallmark and a theater-going tradition for generations of Madison families.

Thurow wrote many of her own plays adapted from children’s literature, and usually served as director. In 1977, she founded CTM’s Summer Drama School, which continues today.

“It was her philosophy to do mixed-age casting for the mainstage shows, which we still do, and it was also her impetus to have this summer drama school, which would be all kids doing all the roles,” said Roseann Sheridan, CTM’s producing artistic director.

“She talked a lot about how much being involved in theater gave young people focus, and if you could really focus your attention, you could succeed at anything.”

A Facebook group called “CTM — The Nancy Years,” with 329 members, documents the many lives and careers Thurow touched.

“She just had a way of galvanizing people to support this organization,” Sheridan said. “She had incredible vision.”

A visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. May 10 at Cress Funeral Home, 3610 Speedway Road, followed by a funeral at 10 a.m. May 11 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 602 Everglade Drive.

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Gayle Worland is an arts and features reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.