Judith Roche Obituary

by Paul Nelson


Judith Roche 

September 9, 1941 – November 14, 2019

Permission for the photo of Judith Roche was granted by her estate.

Longtime pillar of the local literary community, poet, teacher and literary arts curator Judith Roche died in her Leschi home Thursday afternoon, November 14, 2019. She was surrounded by family. 

Roche published four books of original poetry, including Myrrh: My Life as a Screamer, of which poet Sharon Doubiago said: …“When one realizes how profoundly ‘Myrrh’ comes from the practice on all levels, how successfully she pulls off one of the riskiest of endeavors . . . one begins to grasp . . . a highly original, courageous, mature, beautiful singularity of Voice, Theme, Sound, Image… making up a brilliant whole.” Her book Wisdom of the Body, was an American Book Award winner, and she published widely in various journals and magazines. Roche also had poems installed on several Seattle area public art projects and taught poetry at Seattle U., Cornish College and the Richard Hugo House.

The Literary Arts Director for Bumbershoot between 1986 and 2005, she was the recipient of the Golden Umbrella Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts in September 2007. The award announcement said:

“Judith served One Reel for 20 years as Director of the Literary Arts Program… where just a few highlights of her tenure were co-editing First Fish, First People (winner of the American Book Award in 1998), editing Bumbershoot’s annual literary magazine Ergo! from 1985-1994 and coordinating the publication of Edgewalking on the Western Rim (1994). Judith’s support of local writers and artists is unparalleled…” 

Other Golden Umbrella Award winners were Ernestine Anderson, Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight, Ursula K. LeGuin, Tom Robbins and George Tsutakawa to give you a sense of her artistic company.

Friend and poet Margareta Waterman said one of her favorite lines of Judith was: “I believe in all of the gods; I just don’t like some of them.”  

Judith is survived by her children, Tari and Robin; her grandchildren, Sahara and Gabriella and her sisters. In lieu of flowers her family is requesting donations in her name to go to L”Arche of Seattle, where her  son Robin lives or “simply perform an act of kindness in Judith’s name.”

Listen to her poem Hoffa:


Rainier Beach resident Paul E Nelson founded SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) & the Cascadia Poetry Festival, wrote: American Sentences, A Time Before Slaughter and is Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia and 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards. His book of interviews taken from 16 of his 600+ interviews is: American Prophets (Interviews 1994-2012.) Hear interviews at his blog: www.PaulENelson.com