Patience Cleveland was born in New York City on 23 May 1931, the daughter of Dr. Mather Cleveland and Susan Colgate Cleveland. Patience, affectionately called Patsy by her family, was the youngest of six children.
Cleveland knew from a young age that her passion was acting. She graduated from Miss Porter’s School and then Smith College where she majored in theater under the direction of Hallie Flanagan. One of her earliest roles was in “Our Town” at the New London Barn Playhouse in New London, NH. She went on to study acting in Paris at the Cours Simon and at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York under the tutelage of Sanford Meisner and Charles Conrad. Cleveland made her Broadway debut in 1956, playing Princess Alice in “The Apple Cart.” She also played Laura James opposite Anthony Perkins in “Look Homeward, Angel” and toured with Tallulah Bankhead and Estelle Winwood in “Here Today.” Cleveland worked in both summer stock and winter stock and, in 1960, she went on a USO tour of the Far East with a company that included Joan Rivers.
In 1961, Cleveland moved to Los Angeles and she remained bi-coastal until 1965 when she settled permanently on the West Coast. In 1963, Cleveland explored her interest in writing, publishing a children’s book, “The Lion is Busy. Although she didn’t pursue a writing career, Cleveland continued to write stories, poems, and screenplays throughout her life. At the end of 1962, Cleveland met Peter Hobbs whom she married in 1965 in New London, NH; they divorced in 1968. In February 1969, Cleveland married Richard Michels in Las Vegas, NV; Cleveland and Michels divorced in 1975.
Later in life, Cleveland enjoyed a career in television with guest roles on a variety of shows including “Seinfeld,” “The Drew Carey Show,” and “The Practice.” She is also particularly well-known for her role as Roberta Sparrow (Grandma Death) in the cult film, “Donnie Darko.” In 2003, she worked with John Cleese on a short film called “Turning the Wheel” in which she played an aging, headstrong mother who would not admit to her failing ability to operate a motor vehicle.
In June 2003, Cleveland was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer. Patience Cleveland died from cancer on 27 May 2004 in Los Angeles, CA, four days after her 73rd birthday.