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wheels-up landing on the main runway
at the Olympia Airport in a rainstorm
while flying a Cessna 210. He decided
he liked sailing better.
And while this article is about Bob
Utter, his story cannot be told without talking about his wonderful wife,
Betty. They met in college, married in
1953, and raised three children. She
was a highly regarded teacher, taught
counseling at St. Martin’s College, and
served as president of the Associated
Ministries of Thurston County. She
helped launch an ecumenical religious
education program for people with
mental disabilities. She worked with
Bob in many of the civic organizations
he has supported and accompanied
him on his travels throughout the world
where, while he was teaching judges,
she was teaching English to children
Bob Utter will be long remembered,
not just by loving family, but by lawyers
and judges impacted by his work, by
citizens of Washington who benefited
by his decisions, and by judges around
the world influenced by his teachings
and by his humanity. He was a great
man who accomplished a great deal in
his life. For Bob, I would expect nothing
but calm seas and smooth sailing in a
peaceful dimension beyond.
I consider one of the great treasures
of my life to be my friendship with Bob
Utter. I, too, found purpose and direction in high school in the YMCA Youth
& Government program, and worked
with Justice Utter to establish the judicial arm of that program. I, too, clerked
for Justice Matthew Hill and learned
much from that great teacher and role
model. I travelled with Bob and Betty
on one of their trips to China and Tibet, and served on Justice Utter’s faculty when judges came to the United
States for training. I was also one of
the lawyers who argued the Sofie case
to the Supreme Court. And it was Justice Utter who presided at my wedding.
However, unlike Justice Utter, you will
never find me sailing a 41-foot sailboat
across 2,500 miles of open ocean water.
I wish to acknowledge that I have
liberally borrowed from the excellent
article by my friend John Hughes of the
Washington State Historical Legacy
project, for content and quotes. I thank
him for his excellent work. NWL
Paul Stritmatter practices
with Stritmatter Kessler Whelan
in Hoquiam. He is a former president of the Washington State Bar
Association and the Washington
State Trial Lawyers Association
(now Washington State Association
for Justice). He can be reached at