Beth Hutmacher

November 20, 1947 - October 27, 2022


Beth Hutmacher, artist and poet, died on Oct. 27, 2022, in Kingston, Washington. The daughter of Barbara MacLean and Donald Hutmacher, she was born in San Luis Obispo, California in 1947. For more than 20 years, she lived in Port Townsend and loved it there. But two and a half years ago, when Beth’s physical disability made living in her beautiful home impractical, she moved to an apartment in Kingston.

Beth’s family relocated several times because of her father’s job. She went to grade school in Wenatchee and to high school in Virginia, Georgia, and California. Her mother then took Beth and her siblings to the Canary Islands to live. Beth was a preschool teacher there, the first of her overseas adventures.

After Beth earned a long-delayed university degree at Western Washington University, she and her husband Joe went to Shanghai to teach English. With her students and Chinese colleagues, she was caught up in those exhilarating moments in the Spring of 1988 when meaningful democratic reforms seemed inevitable. But then the tanks moved into Tiananmen Square. The American Embassy advised Americans to flee China and those surreal days on the ship Beth and Joe took out of China were captured in a poem. That oppressively hot afternoon on the East China Sea, sitting on the deck with other strung-out expatriates, each with a story to tell, everyone worrying about their Chinese friends, all this to the sound of mahjong games from an adjoining stateroom.

Beth went back to Western Washington University for graduate school and then returned to Asia to teach, this time in a Japanese university. Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world, but Beth found places of beauty in the countryside and mountains, in city parks and temple precincts. She had the rare ability to recognize that the moment she was in was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Stopping on a forest trail to listen to a distant temple bell. Drinking green tea in a bamboo grove. Pausing at the koi pond in front of her favorite chocolate shop. Strolling through a moss garden. Gathering with thousands of others to mark the new year or wish the emperor happy birthday.

Back to the United States in the late 1990s, she and Joe settled in Port Townsend. Beth found a sunny spot on a hill in the outskirts of town, glacial till below and Scotch broom above, and made it a work of art. “Into the earth,” she told a friend, “my garden grew, layer by layer, like a painting or a poem.” Her memories of Japan are embedded in that space. Bamboo, moss, raked gravel, maples and conifers. Simplicity and serenity.

She made wonderful art. Always fearless, she worked with a variety of media. Colored pencil at first, then pastels, graphite, acrylics, felt and fiber.

Beth loved Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula. Beachcombing on Glass Beach. Camping on a wilderness beach or up the Hoh River. That second cup of coffee in Fort Worden. Ancient trees in the rainforest, wildflowers on Hurricane Ridge. Joe’s lemon meringue pie. Pulling weeds, painting the garden gate. Movies at the Rose Theater. Taking the dogs for a neighborhood walk. Cloudscapes. Owls hooting, hummingbirds at the feeder, eagles soaring, ospreys carrying home fish. Talking to friends about books and movies and art.

Beth is survived by her husband, Joe Gondar; daughter, Robin Pence and grandson, Kyle Pence; two sisters, Cary Roper and Jessica Hutmacher; two brothers, Clayton Hutmacher and David Hutmacher; and many good friends.