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Originally published November 29, 2011 at 6:23 PM | Page modified November 29, 2011 at 6:51 PM

Obituary: Archie Satterfield, author, former journalist

Archie Satterfield, a former journalist and author, died from a stroke after surgery on Nov. 21 in Bellingham. He was 78.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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When Archie Satterfield decided he wanted to write a book about canoeing on the Yukon River, he packed up his wife and four small children and headed north.

He was "totally fearless about taking us places," said Mr. Satterfield's son, Scott. Scott took the same canoe trip on the Yukon with his father in 2003. "At the time, I was the same age as he was when we did it with him. He had four kids. I had one elderly father."

Mr. Satterfield, a former journalist and author, died Nov. 21 from a stroke after surgery in Bellingham. He was 78.

Mr. Satterfield worked for both The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer before he retired to write full time. He wrote 40 books, many set in Alaska. They include books on the Chilkoot Pass, Klondike Park, the Yukon River and back roads in Washington state.

In recent years, Mr. Satterfield divided his time between Washington and Arizona. He was living in Oak Harbor at the time of his death.

Mr. Satterfield loved to travel and lived five years in France, his son said. To celebrate his 75th birthday, he rented a villa in the south of France and invited his close friends. About a dozen showed up.

Among them was City Councilwoman Jean Godden, a former journalist and close friend from Mr. Satterfield's days at the P-I. .

She considered Mr. Satterfield her mentor at the newspaper. "He was a marvelous friend," she said. "He had this wanderlust, always off to some strange, outlandish place. He was a great, big guy, but gentle."

Nancy Erickson also met him at the P-I.

"He was one of the most generous kind of friends we ever had, a real special guy," Erickson said. "How many friends rent a villa in the south of France and say, y'all come?"

Mr. Satterfield hosted a party at his house the day before he went in for surgery, she said, but he didn't tell anybody about it, believing it was minor.

Born in Howards Ridge, Mo., Mr. Satterfield joined the Navy in 1952.

After the Navy he attended St. Louis University and the University of Missouri before getting a summer job on a wheat farm in Washtucna in Eastern Washington.

He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in English and worked for a string of newspapers: the Seaside Signal in Oregon, the Longview Daily News, The Seattle Times and The P-I.

He left the Post-Intelligencer in 1980 to start a new regional magazine, Northwest Living, and in 1987 he became a full-time freelance writer, specializing in history and travel.

Mr. Satterfield also wrote corporate histories for Alaska Airlines, Crescent Foods, Darigold and Tillamook Cheese.

Roy Edenholm knew Mr. Satterfield from his UW days and hired him at The P-I. He said Mr. Satterfield always considered himself a writer.

"I get a job as a copy boy at The P-I and Archie goes to the Seaside Signal. Before I know it, he's written his first book, on the Columbia. Here I am dinking around with carbon paper, and he already has a book published!"

He said Mr. Satterfield also loved bad puns. Once, when he was living in a house on Capitol Hill with small stone lions on the front steps, he told Edenholm that he'd found a newsboy sitting on the top step reading a newspaper.

"So what?" asked Edenholm.

"He was reading between the lions," Mr. Satterfield replied.

In addition to Scott Satterfield, Mr. Satterfield is survived by three daughters, Cassie Sheehan, of Ollala, Kitsap County, Erin Hansen, of Baker City, Ore., and Sarah Archer, of San Diego; and one brother Wayne Satterfield, of Denver.

Scott Satterfield said his father didn't want a funeral service, so a party in his honor is being planned.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to either the Authors Guild's "Authors League Fund" (authorsleaguefund.org) or the Whatcom Hospice Foundation, 2901 Squalicum Parkway, Bellingham, WA 98225.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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