William Henry Matchett

Matchett—William Henry Matchett, 98, on June 21, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. Bill was born on March 5, 1923, in Chicago, Ill. His parents, James Chapman Matchett and Lucy Jipson Matchett as well as his father’s father, were members of Chicago Meeting. Bill graduated from Westtown School and Swarthmore College, both in Pennsylvania. His time at Swarthmore was interrupted by World War II, when he spent three years as a conscientious objector serving in the Civilian Public Service camp in West Campton, N.H., and then in the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass. Bill graduated from Swarthmore in 1949.

Bill and Judith Wright married in 1949. They moved to Cambridge, where Bill earned his doctorate from Harvard University. During that time, Bill was a teaching assistant in Archibald MacLeish’s poetry class. Bill transferred his membership to Cambridge Meeting. Son David was born in Cambridge in 1952.

Bill and Judy moved to Seattle, Wash., in 1954 when Bill was offered a position in the English Department at the University of Washington. He taught there for his entire career. Daughter Kathy was born in 1954, and son Stephen in 1957. Stephen died of cancer in May 2020.

Bill published four books of poetry: Water Ouzel and Other Poems (1955); Fireweed and Other Poems (1980); Elementary (2004); and Airplants: Selected Poems (2013). He coauthored a textbook, Poetry: From Statement to Meaning, and a book of stories about Indigenous people in the American Southwest. Bill was a founder of the Poets’ Theater in Cambridge, spent 19 years as editor of Modern Language Quarterly, and coedited the first years of Poetry Northwest.

Bill and Judy were deeply involved in University Meeting in Seattle. He served as clerk of the meeting (1968–71 and 1993–95); a term on Ministry and Counsel; four terms on Oversight (now Care and Counsel); two terms on Finance Committee (co-clerk one year); three years on Scholarship (clerk one year); and was statistical clerk for many years.

Bill was active with American Friends Service Committee since 1956. In the 1960s he cofounded what was then called the Indian Committee, working on Native American rights, and served on the regional Executive Committee as well as the regional Gay Lesbian Program Committee. He was involved in antiwar work during the Vietnam War, doing, among other things, draft counseling through the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors.

During summers and full time since retirement, Bill and Judy made their home at Nellita, a community near the Hood Canal, where they became deeply involved in environmental issues. Bill served as president of the Hood Canal Environmental Council for 20 years and served on the Kitsap County Planning Commission for 13. He and Judy were founding members of the West Sound Conservation Council. In 2013, they were recipients of a Hood Canal Coordinating Council’s Environmental Achievement Award.

Bill pursued many passions. Keeping up with friends was vital, particularly students and writers he had mentored over the years. He kept a daily journal; played the piano; attended concerts and plays; and enjoyed bird watching, gardening, stamp collecting, and annual family trips to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore.

Bill and Judy requested a Care Committee in the early 2000s. With the help of neighbors, family, and Friends, Bill and Judy lived independently until March 2021, when they moved in with Kathy and her husband, Chris. They celebrated their seventy-second wedding anniversary less than two weeks before Bill died.

Bill was predeceased by his son Stephen. He is survived by his wife, Judy Matchett; two children, David Matchett (Carol) and Kathy Mallalieu (Chris); and three grandchildren.

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