Jane Galloway Heitz, Actress on 'Glee,' Dies at 78

Courtesy Amie Richardson
Jane Galloway Heitz

As onetime McKinley High glee club head Lillian Adler, she inspired Matthew Morrison's character and is seen in the final shot of the Fox series.

Jane Galloway Heitz, an actress and former casting agent whom Glee aficionados will recognize from her photo in the choir room and auditorium at William McKinley High School, has died. She was 78.

Galloway Heitz died Nov. 13 of congestive heart failure at a hospital in Highland Park, Illinois, her daughter, Amie Richardson, told The Hollywood Reporter.

A photograph of Galloway Heitz was seen often on Glee on a plaque in a trophy case commemorating the life of Lillian Adler, the former head of glee club at McKinley High. That plaque, which contained Adler's birth and death years (1937-1997) and the phrase, "By its very definition, Glee is about opening yourself up to joy," served as an inspiration for Will (Matthew Morrison) to take over as glee club director.

Galloway Heitz appeared in person just twice on the show, both in the same flashback scene: in the director's cut of the 2009 pilot (before her character dies of an unknown cause) and in the 2015 series final. Her plaque — and another honoring Cory Monteith's Finn Hudson — is seen in the very last shot of the series.

Born on Sept. 18, 1941, in Minneapolis, Galloway Heitz attended the University of Minnesota for a couple of years before making her way to Chicago in her early 20s. 

While acting, she opened her own casting business and helped nurture the early careers of Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Richard Kind and Eric Stonestreet, who always credited her for the success he would achieve on Modern Family.

Galloway Heitz sold her agency in 1997 to pursue her passion for acting full-time and earned high marks in her feature debut as a neighbor of Sissy Spacek and Richard Farnsworth's characters in The Straight Story (1999), directed by David Lynch.

She went on to appear on Early EditionERGrey's AnatomyPrison BreakWithout a TraceMonk — said to be her favorite show — The Big Bang Theory and Shameless.

In 2005, as an understudy to Brenda Fricker in a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, Galloway Heitz had to go on as Big Mama on opening night opposite John Goodman when Fricker suddenly fell ill. She knew all her lines and was prepared, and Goodman rewarded her with a bottle of scotch, her daughter recalled.

She also appeared in several productions for the Steppenwolf Theater Company and the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in Chicago.

Her husband of 37 years, TV producer-director Bill Heitz, died in 2002. In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her grandchildren Claire, Jack and William.

A funeral service is set for 11 a.m. on Nov. 30 at Church of Our Saviour in Elmhurst, Illinois. Donations in Galloway Heitz's name can be made to the American Heart Association or American Diabetes Association.