Witt—Lanita Carol Witt, 72, on December 15, 2022, peacefully at home at Willow-Witt Ranch in Ashland, Ore. Lanita was born on August 26, 1950, in Panhandle, Tex. Lanita received her undergraduate degree at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Tex.; earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md.; and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at hospitals and clinics in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health System. Following her medical training, she took a course in carpentry and house building.
In 1979, Lanita met and fell in love with Suzanne Willow, her life partner for 43 years. Suzanne and Lanita had their first marriage ceremony in 1984; married under the care of South Mountain Meeting in Ashland, Ore., in 2005; and were finally able to be legally married in 2013.
Lanita and Suzanne were living and working in Napa, Calif., in 1984 when they purchased 440 poorly-cared-for acres in the mountains above Ashland; they moved onto the land in 1986. Thanks to their careful love and stewardship, the land, called Willow-Witt Ranch, has become a model of sustainable farming, animal husbandry, outdoor education, and forestry. They have created a lovely campground, guest accommodations, and a retreat facility. Most recently they developed the Forest Conservation Burial Ground, Oregon’s first burial ground dedicated completely to green burial. Both women have been gifted visionaries and hard-working, enthusiastic advocates for the land and for sustainability. One of their favorite sayings (found inside a kitchen cupboard of their 1920s house) was “Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow; farm as if you’re going to live forever.” In their 38 years of loving this land, they have created and nurtured stunning beauty, sustainability, and harmony which will continue to provide inspiration for many generations to come.
Lanita practiced medicine for 35 years in the Rogue Valley. At the OB-GYN clinic she had a full obstetrics and surgical practice. Joining the Providence Medford Medical Group in 2005, she established the Urogynecology Clinic. A skilled and compassionate surgeon, she passed the first national board exam in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery (FPMRS) at age 65.
Lanita was an active participant with South Mountain Meeting for many years prior to becoming a member in 2008. Her service on behalf of the meeting was far-reaching, and her expertise on the Building and Grounds Committee is still deeply appreciated and missed. She also served ably and with refreshing humor on the Joint Committee, which oversees the building and property the meeting shares with Peace House.
Two months before Lanita’s death, Willow-Witt Ranch hosted an outdoor celebration of her remarkable life. In the spirit of “potlatch”—a gift-giving feast tradition among Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest—Lanita chose to give away many things she had made and collected over the years. Among the almost 200 people who attended the celebration were Lanita’s former patients, medical colleagues, other farmers and foresters, relatives of people buried in the Forest Conservation Burial Ground, parents of children who attended summer day camps at the Ranch, young people whose lives have been deeply influenced by their experiences on the farm, long-time friends, family, and Quakers—a wonderfully diverse gathering of those who love Lanita. Their moving tributes attested to Lanita’s vision, warmth, humor, patient teaching, kindness, perseverance, and commitment to the health of the earth and the community.
Lanita is survived by her wife, Suzanne Willow; one daughter, Brooke; one grandchild; one nephew and his family; and one niece and her family.