SAG-AFTRA mourns the passing of former SAG National Board member Fern Persons, who died Sunday in Denver. Persons would have been 102 on July 27.
A working actress all of her life, Persons joined AFTRA on Dec. 5, 1937, and was the fifth member of the SAG Chicago Branch when she joined on August 31, 1953. She was elected to the Chicago Branch Council in 1962 and served for 44 years until 2006, when she stepped down only because she could no longer drive. She also served more than 30 years on the AFTRA Chicago Local Board. Persons was elected to the SAG National Board in 1976, and served on that body until 1998. During that time, from 1977-81, she was elected SAG 5th national vice president. She served as a SAG Regional Branch Division representative on TV/Theatrical and Commercials negotiating committees throughout the 1980s and intermittently through the 1990s.
Finally, as co-chair of the Chicago AFTRA/SAG Seniors Committee from 1984 to 2003, Persons spearheaded many projects designed to increase employment opportunities for senior members. She was the force behind the creation of the AFTRA/SAG Senior Radio Players in 1996, which continues to this day in Chicago as the SAG-AFTRA Senior Radio Players.
Because of Persons’ decades of union leadership and contributions to the lives of Chicago actors and broadcasters, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley declared July 27, 1999 Fern Persons Day. Persons was honored in 2006 with the AFTRA Founders Award and, in 2009, she was awarded SAG's prestigious Howard Keel Award. This past May, Persons donated $100,000 to Chicago's Kaufherr Members Resource Center endowment fund. In appreciation, the KMRC video suite was renamed The Fern Persons Video Suite.