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In Memory . . . Webster Lardner Kitchell

Posted By Jessica Cambio, Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Reverend Webster Lardner Kitchell died on February 9, 2009 of complications from Parkinson's disease.  He was 78.

Rev. Kitchell was born in Newburyport, MA, on May 21, 1931, to Francis Robert Kitchell and Jeannette Abbot Kitchell.  He was the youngest of four brothers, following Frank, Sam, and Peter.

He graduated from Amherst College in 1955 and Harvard Divinity School in 1957. He received his doctorate from Eden Theological Seminary in 1972. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War and was honorably discharged in 1951.

His first position in the ministry was as assistant minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, from 1957 to 1960. Rev. Kitchell then moved to Eliot Chapel in Kirkwood, Mo., for 13 years. From 1973 to 1981 he served as minister at First Unitarian Church in Houston. He continued his trek west by becoming the first minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe, where he served until 1998.  Following his retirement, the Santa Fe congregation named him Minister Emeritus.

Rev. Kitchell was active in various UU related organizations, including as chair of the Central Midwest District Personnel committee, editor of the Midwest Liberal Minister’s Newsletter, and member of the nominating committee of the UU Historical Society.  His community activities included The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the Kirkwood, Missouri Ministerial Alliance, and president of the Committee for Responsible Citizenship. 

He was known for his sonorous voice and the humor in his sermons. His "Coyote" sermons became a tradition at the church in Santa Fe. Coyote, the "trickster" symbol in Native American mythology, was his fictitious partner whom he met at doughnut shops to discuss current events, matters of theology, and the wonders of life. He wrote three books based on these sermons, including God's Dog: Conversations with Coyote, Get a God!: More Conversations with Coyote, and Coyote Says: More Conversations with God's Dog.

He loved cars from his first, a '34 Ford convertible which he got when he was 19, to his last, a convertible Mustang. The list of 26 vehicles he owned included such wonders as a yellow VW Thing, decorated with bumper stickers espousing various liberal causes, and a '41 Plymouth coupe, which was among his favorites. He owned many model cars and set up revolving displays of them. He was also an accomplished amateur photographer who loved to record his family, his parishioners, and the landscape of the American West. Throughout his life he enjoyed camping, backpacking, canoeing, and long road trips.

Rev. Kitchell was preceded in death by his wife of 23 years, Nancy Gay Mottweiler Kitchell. Two previous marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his children Catherine Kitchell of Chevy Chase, Md., David Kitchell of Seattle, and Benjamin Kitchell of Tigard, Ore. His three stepchildren are John Warner of San Diego, Dana Mottweiler of Oakland, Cal., and Kurt Mottweiler of Portland, Ore. There are three grandchildren and one step-grandchild. He is survived by his companion of the last few years, Nancy Driesbach and his eldest brother, Frank, who resides in Seattle.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Fe, 107 W. Barcelona Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505 or the Parkinson's Disease Foundation at

Services were held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Fe on Saturday, March 7th.  The Rev. Dr. Stephen Furrer officiated.  Please send messages of condolence to Catherine Kitchell, 5500 Friendship Blvd, Apt 2411 N, Chevy Chase, MD 20815.

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