Obituary — Scott Abbott

Alexander Scott Abbott was born Jan. 31, 1921, to Jane and Earl Abbott in Fort Collins, and died Aug. 28 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His life was lived in service.

His youth was blessed by the loving presence in the same town of his much-loved Aunty Helen. As a child, Scott lived in boarding houses in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, West Virginia and Minnesota while Earl was on the road selling banking supplies. The family moved to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, in time for Scott to attend high school and to find buddies who remained friends throughout his life. A high school highlight was a cross-country road trip with the three-man debate team, which included visiting the newly built Hoover Dam.

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Scott attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, a seminal experience in his life. To the end of his life he extolled the merits of the seminar approach to teaching and talked of getting back to his Greek studies. He thrived on the intellectual stimulation and the college life. Going home for vacation one year, he exited the train with his lacrosse stick over his shoulder, found himself walking behind Joe DiMaggio, and felt himself an exalted student athlete.

On Sept. 23, 1943, a newly minted Lt. (jg) Scott married Kate Winkler. Sixteen months later, after a typical wartime young couple’s life of moving from one end of the country to another in crowded trains, living in substandard housing, and never knowing what the morrow might bring, Scott was sent overseas.

During the war, Scott served on the U.S.S. Black Douglas on anti-submarine patrol out of Neah Bay, Wash., and on the net tender U.S.S. Corkwood in the Pacific. He loved to tell of his only war wound — being bitten on the elbow by a gooney bird on Guam. But war is war, and he paid a price.

After the war, Scott attended the University of Wyoming on the GI Bill to get his teaching credentials. He and Kate with their three children and other GI families lived in army barracks that had been sawed in half, trucked down the highway, and stuck back together with a nice one-inch gap in the middle for the Wyoming wind to blow through.

Scott was by profession and avocation first, last and always, a teacher, and continued formally tutoring until he was 83. In institutional settings, he taught elementary students, high school students, college students, alternative students, jail residents, and foreign students. His favorite subjects to teach were history, geography and civics.

The teaching situation that resided in his heart all his life was teaching high school in Tuba City, Arizona. Scott was a gentle man and a gentleman, a man of great tolerance for individual differences, a man who conducted himself in society with quiet dignity, and in Tuba he found himself among people of like qualities. Scott also taught such things as carpentry and gun safety and how to use a chain saw to any kid he could snag. He taught all his children and grandchildren how to drive.

Scott and Kate were venturesome lifelong learners. Among the many places Scott taught were Fort Collins, Nederland, Carbondale, Aurora, Denver and Steamboat Springs; Annapolis, Maryland; Sitka, Alaska; Tuba City, Arizona, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. In each of these places, they became involved in bettering the community and in learning what the locale had to offer.

Younger people were always drawn to Scott. He was informal, anti-authoritarian, an iconoclast, a social progressive, and he loved to teach them and to engage them in dialogue. He bailed them out of jail, invited them to sleep on the living room floor and was an appealing alternative version of adulthood to many an adolescent.

Scott cared deeply about making this a better world. His focus was not so much on policy, though he was a proud lifetime member of the ACLU, often discussed how public education could be improved, did legislative watch for the League of Women Voters, and was fond of writing terse letters to the editor. He focused more on people, giving his time and using his talents and abilities to make things better, one individual, one classroom, one family at a time. He was a volunteer tutor for adult basic education, helped build wash stations and privies in Nicaragua, built houses with Habitat for Humanity, sponsored alcoholics in trouble and provided guidance for teen alcoholics (he was very proud of the fact that, at the age of 90, he had been sober for 23 years), gave people rides and moved their goods; founded a community library in Colorado; volunteered at the public library and the anthropology lab, worked for the SHARE program and more in Santa Fe.

Among those who are glad for Scott’s sake that the life of the body is over but for whom his death has left a sorrowful void are his daughters Jane, Becky and Debby Abbott and Sue Schneider, her husband Rick and his foster son Joe Robbins; his cousins Niles and Ann Reimer and Mary Jane and Knight Washburn; his grandchildren Toby Ramey; Katy Downie and husband Tim; Phoebe, Maya, and Gabriel Daurio; and Abby and Cara Schneider; great-granddaughters Madeline Mae Dean and Nola Downie; ex-sons-in-law Levi Ramey and John Daurio; lifelong friends from the Poudre Canyon community in Colorado; high school friend Jim Matheson; college friend Adrian Mayer; members of his St. Bede’s church family in Santa Fe; and nieces and nephews.

Scott was particularly fortunate in his last months to have been nurtured by and granted the gifts of compassionate honesty and true listening by Helen Dumond. In addition to strong support from members of the St. Bede’s parish, Scott also had a guardian in Bob Dorsett, compassionate and highly competent medical care from Drs. Joshua Brown and Karin Thron, caring support from Richard Griego, Tom White, Heather Estrada, Lauren Huston, Archie Gurule and the wonderful staff of Ponce de Leon, and intellectual stimulation and companionship from Robert Cather and Mary Conant.

Scott’s life was commemorated Sept. 17 at St. Bede’s Church. Contributions in Scott’s name may be made to the ACLU, the United Farm Workers of America, Habitat for Humanity, or to El Porvenir for projects in Camoapa, Nicaragua.