Brian Slover restored theater in North Bend

For days, people dropped by the North Bend Theatre to write messages to the Slover family on big pieces of poster paper taped to the building's double doors. As the pages filled up, they were removed and replaced and filled again.

"The community is grieving," said John Jenks, pastor at Cascade Covenant Church, where a memorial service was held last night for Brian Slover, the 41-year-old film buff who, with his wife, Karlene, restored North Bend's 1941 movie house to its former glory.

"He was a great guy. He was deeply respected and loved in this community and church — and he was one of the most well-known people in town," Jenks said.

On Friday night, two weeks into staging his first spring film festival, Mr. Slover stayed late after the last showing of "Frida," the film starring Salma Hayek about artist Frida Kahlo. He got home around midnight and, not wanting to disturb his sleeping wife, went to sleep in another room. Sometime before morning, he died.

This weekend, Mr. Slover's family will open the North Bend Theatre to the community for special screenings of "That Thing You Do," a 1960s-era flick written and directed by Tom Hanks about a rock band that makes it big. It was near the top of Mr. Slover's favorite-films list — a list "that could easily fill two pages of your newspaper," Karlene Slover said.

Mr. Slover was born in Bellevue, the youngest of three children born to Fred and Jane Slover. His mother stayed at home and his father worked for Boeing, taught mountain-climbing classes at the University of Washington and later became a carpenter.

When he was 13, Mr. Slover met Karlene Stoops and her older brother Dave through their church youth group. In 1979, Mr. Slover and Karlene Stoops graduated from Kirkland's Lake Washington High School.

But friendship didn't turn to romance until the summer after their graduation, Karlene Slover said. Mr. Slover received a media-technology degree from Bellevue Community College and, at age 20, married his best friend's sister.

In 1985, Mr. Slover worked on the Microsoft assembly line, packaging software for $4.50 an hour, his wife said. By the time he left the company 10 years later, he was managing the media-technology department and teaching software classes to his colleagues, she said.

The family eventually moved to North Bend and bought the North Bend Theatre. They spent a year remodeling it, taking great pains to restore its art-deco fixtures and replicate the 1940s neon sign that hangs outside. It reopened Dec. 17, 1999.

"Today, when you go to a multiplex, they play commercials in the auditorium before the movie starts," Mr. Slover told The Seattle Times before the reopening. "There's no elegance or drama to the presentation at all."

Mr. Slover refused to show commercials in his theater, and insisted that no more than three previews be shown before a movie, said Sue Beauvais, a North Bend business owner and fellow film buff.

He was a perfectionist who loved movies, but he also worked behind the scenes, using his theater as a way to build community, Beauvais said.

He threw a benefit screening after an arsonist torched Twede's Cafe, a local landmark, and every year showed movies to raise money for middle- and high-school music programs, she said.

Mr. Slover also was a deeply spiritual and generous man who lived his faith, Karlene Slover said.

"I have peace because he cherished me, he loved me," she said. "We wanted to grow old together but ... it got cut really short."

In addition to his wife and parents, Mr. Slover is survived by his children, Wesley, Nathan and Laura; his sister, Deborah Ferguson of Bellevue; and his brother, Kevin Slover of Woodinville.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or