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Eric Eatherly, performing arts publicist, dies in car crash

Eric Eatherly, vice president of the Silverman Group, one of Chicago’s leading public relations firms for the performing arts, died early Monday morning in an automobile accident during a holiday visit to his family in Tennessee. He was 35.

Eatherly was the Silverman Group’s principal publicist for the Joffrey Ballet. A 2001 graduate of Northwestern University, where he majored in dance and sociology, he began his career as a dancer, performing concurrently with such Chicago-based contemporary troupes as Hedwig Dances (for which he also served as production manager) and Same Planet, Different World. He also appeared with Mordine & Company Dance Theater and Thodos Dance Chicago.

An injury forced him to shift careers. From 2007 to 2008 he wrote about dance for the Windy City Times before joining the Silverman Group, where he has worked for the past seven years.

According to a report in the Chattanoogan, Eatherly was a passenger in a car being driven by his father, Joseph Eatherly, 61, of Knoxville when the crash occurred early in the morning. Joseph Eatherly, a physician, was hospitalized in critical condition.

“Eric was so perfect for his job,” said Beth Silverman. “He was so passionate and knowledgeable about dance. On a holiday card I recently did an anagram of his name and it was ‘Enthusiastic,’ ‘Rational,’ ‘Intelligent’ and ‘Calm, Cool and Collected’.”

“I am in shock,” said Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet. “This is a very sad day for all of us who knew Eric, and whose life ended when he was still so young. He was so passionate for life and the arts. At the Joffrey we all interacted with him on a daily basis. It will be strange and sad to go to work without this warm and engaging person.”

Born in San Francisco, Eatherly grew up in Chattanooga from the age of 4, and graduated from the Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences in 1997.

Other accounts of the Silverman Group that were handled by the highly professional, always gentlemanly Eatherly included the annual Chicago Dancing Festival, the Lyric Opera, the Chicago Sinfonietta and Fulcrum Point, the contemporary music ensemble.

Eatherly is survived by his mother, Nancy Follis, of Chattanooga; his half-sister, Janna Eatherly, and his maternal grandmother, Frances Chapman, as well as by his partner of 11 years, Jay Leibovitz, a lawyer in Chicago.

A celebration of Eatherly’s life will be held from 10:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 17 at the Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph.