Amherst Magazine

WEBSTER L. KITCHELL ’53

Webster Kitchell died in Santa Fe, N.M., Feb. 9, 2009, of complications from Parkinson’s disease. Though officially ’53, he left at the end of freshman year for U.S. Marines duty in the Korean War, returning to graduate with the Class of 1955. He was the youngest of five brothers—all of whom graduated from Amherst. His Amherst relatives also included a cousin, a nephew, a grandniece and a grandnephew. Of the five brothers, only Frank Kitchell ’39 survives, still active in the Alpha Delta Phi Society, residing in Seattle and planning to attend his 70th Amherst Reunion this spring.

A philosophy major, Web spent a long career in the ministry and was minister emeritus of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sante Fe at his death. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1957 and received his doctorate from Eden Theological Seminary in 1972. His first position in the ministry was as assistant minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, serving from 1957 to 1960. He then moved to Eliot Chapel in Kirkwood, Mo., for 13 years. From 1973 to 1981, he was minister at First Unitarian Church in Houston, then continued his trek west to become minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sante Fe, retiring in 1998.

Web Kitchell was known for his sonorous voice and the humor in his sermons. His “Coyote” sermons became a tradition at the church in Sante Fe. Coyote, the “trickster” symbol in Native American mythology, was his fictitious partner for discussions of current events, matters of theology, and the wonders of life. He wrote three books based on these sermons: God’s Dog: Conversations with Coyote, Get a God! . . . More Conversations with Coyote . . . and Coyote Says: More Conversations with God’s Dog.

He also loved cars—from his first, a ’34 Ford convertible to his last, a Mustang convertible.  He owned many model cars which he frequently displayed.  Web was also an accomplished amateur photographer who loved to record his family, his parishioners and the landscape of the American West. He enjoyed camping, backpacking, canoeing and long road trips.

Web was preceded in death by his wife of 23 years, Nancy Gay Mottweiler Kitchell, with two previous marriages ending in divorce. Besides his brother Frank, he is survived by three children—Catherine, David and Benjamin—plus three stepchildren, three grandchildren and one step-grandchild. He is also survived by Nancy Driesbach, his companion of the last few years. Services were held March 7 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Fe.

—Frank R. Kitchell ’39
—Philip W. Ransom, Jr. ’53

 

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