Satterfield, Archie (1933-2011): Author, Traveler, Raconteur

  • By Jean Godden
  • Posted 11/30/2011
  • Essay 9973

This remembrance of author Archie Satterfield was written by  Jean Godden, "Seattle City Councilmember and former ink-stained wretch."

Archie Satterfield

Three summers ago, I received an invitation to Archie Satterfield’s 75th birthday. It was typically Archie. Not a low-key local reception.  No sir, instead he’d emptied his wallet to lease a chateau in the South of France for a week -- nine bedrooms and five baths -- and he wanted to fill the place with his friends. And fill it, he did with fellow journalists, acquaintances from his earlier five-year sojourn in France, and travelers  whom he’d met on his many travels.

Archie gave a final party for his buddies mid-November and then, following a minor medical procedure, suffered a stroke and passed away on November 21, 2011, in Bellingham. The author of 40 books, an editor, reporter, and story teller, Archie grew up in the Missouri Ozarks. [Born June 18, 1933.] He retained something of that background, a faint Missouri twang and a courtly demeanor, even though he left the Ozarks barely out of his teens to join navy. He attended St. Louis University and the University of Missouri before moving to Seattle in 1959 and earning a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Washington.

Archie was a giant of a man -- at a guess, maybe 6 foot 4 -- and broad. He wore a neat silver beard and generally topped it off with a straw hat. He had a wonderful crinkle of laugh lines around his eyes and often a tan from his years of traveling the world. In later years, he alternated his home address between Washington and Arizona. He earned his journalists’ stripes at both The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

I first knew Archie as the editor of the Post-Intelligencer’s Sunday book review section.  I was a beginning reporter and he was, as always, a generous mentor, offering advice and literary criticism (“keep it simple, stupid”).  But, for such an imposing figure, he was the most peaceful of souls. I still recall one day when they were rearranging desks in the Post-Intelligencer features department and reporters were scrapping over who would sit where. Walking into the room, I was nearly knocked flat by Archie who was running in the opposite direction, eager to avoid a fight.

He was the founding editor of a regional magazine, Northwest Living, and edited the Museum of Flight News and Enetai, a magazine for riders of the Washington State Ferries. Since 1987, he had been a full-time writer of books and articles on history, travel and popular culture. He also commissioned histories for clients such as Alaska Airlines, Tillamook Cheese, Crescent Foods, and the City of Edmonds, Washington.

His 40-plus books have been published by a variety of national and regional publishing houses. Some have been in print for more than 30 years. He was devoted to music and writing and a lifelong learner and explorer. His friends, to whom he was devoted, will never forget his enthusiasm for the oddities and oddballs of life and his love of a good story.

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