Lemley Chapel
Serving Sedro-Woolley &
All of Skagit County Since 1935
1008 Third Street
Sedro-Woolley, WA
Jerry Sommerseth Memorial
Jerry Sommerseth Memorial

Jerry Sommerseth

Jerry Sommerseth

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Local musician, teacher, activist, and humanitarian, Jerry Sommerseth, passed away April 23, 2019 after a long illness. He was 83 years of age.

He taught in the Sedro-Woolley School District for many years, as well as teaching private music in the county.  Additionally, Jerry’s deep commitment to social justice and environmental causes endeared him to many.   He was widely known for inspiring others to stand with him in a weekly protest in front of the Skagit County Courthouse to bring attention to his many selected causes.

For more than 30 years he organized and presented concerts in honor of Beethoven’s December 16th birthday, on the closest Sunday to that date.  Jerry was able to attract local as well as regional musicians who appreciated his love of classical music.  Attendees scheduled their Christmas activities around the concert and the venue was most often filled to overflowing.

Jerry served for many years as the music director for the Central United Methodist Church in Sedro Woolley, and the Bay View United Methodist Church.  He faithfully provided his musical blessing to many people in that capacity.

He was also involved with PFLAG of Skagit County, serving the needs of local LBGTQ persons here.  He worked with groups seeking to provide better conditions for farmworkers and migrants, always seeking to fill a need where he could.

Jerry is survived by his brother, Bob Sommerseth of Marysville and sister-in-law Sharon of Everett; nephews, Brent Sommerseth of Seattle, and Vaughn Sommerseth of Lake Stevens, and niece, Rochelle Sommerseth of Lynnwood.

Jerry’s long-time friend and former student Dale Huggins and his wife Gail supervised his care during the past few years.  Dale advises, “One thing I know, Jerry would never have wanted us to waste time grieving for him.  Laughing, singing, remembering good times, and continuing his good work are what Jerry would have wished from us.  Remember how he taught us and always gave of himself to help others; gave far more than expected!  We could not have had a better example.”

A Life Celebration Service for Jerry will be held on Saturday, June 22, 2019 (his birthday) at 1:00 PM at the Central United Methodist Church, 1031 Polte Road, Sedro-Woolley. Please bring stories to share.


  • Al Coslor

    A moving and inspirational Life Celebration Service for Jerry was held on Saturday, June 22, 2019 (his birthday) at the Central United Methodist Church, 1031 Polte Road, Sedro-Woolley. We were reminded that the best birthday present for him would be to carry on his acts of mercy, care for the Environment, and education for Justice.
    Some of you are likely familiar with the Amy Goodman Democracy Now Show on radio and youtube. It puzzles me–Who is this man Warren? Every show she mentions some man named Warren–Warren Peace–the warren peace show.
    and have we yet figured out who is Sarah? last name Spondah? She was in a song Mr. Sommerseth taught many of us in gradeschool, sing along if you remember:
    Sarah Spondah sarah spondah sara spondah ret set set
    Sarah Spondah sarah spondah sara spondah ret set set
    Adoreo, adoreh boomdehoh
    Adoreo, boomdehoh
    Ret set set, ossey fossy oh.
    I looked it up on Wikipedia on the Googles, it is a nonsense campfire song, sung in Methodist camps, originally maybe a Dutch song about spinning wheels. Not the kind kids used to put on lawns.

    We of the orchestra used to tour around to the grade schools at Christmastime. Decades later I dreamt that I was at a grade school concert years later and Mr. Sommerseth calls me up out of the audience to take a guest chair in the violin section.
    He taught us a type of jokes called
    Swifties, from Tom Swift and his incredible motor car etc.
    “Say, that car’s not a stick shift”, he said automatically.
    “Did you get here by train or by plane?” “By plane”he replied, airily.
    or “By train, of course…!!” he railed.
    You can make these up yourself once you hear a few, lots of fun for kids on long journeys. Swifties.
    Mr. Sommerseth had an old-country gentlemanliness of shaking hands with a humble little bow and a cheering smile.
    Remember how at the end of a concert he would bow deeply, arms at his sides, and gesture for the orchestra to stand for applause.
    He instilled respect and teamwork without being mean, always kindly. After years of happy Americana singing in elementary school, and classics in the orchestra family, I still can hardly call him anything but Mr. Sommerseth.
    We would play one of the great tunes he led us in, such as Beethoven’s 5th [“Dih Dih Dih Dah!”], and when we finished the powerful music we would turn to each other in the orchestra and smile “We did that!! [Sigh of accomplishment.]”
    His work for Peace & Environment [and his extensive white beard] earned him the title in some circles, of Saint Sommerseth.
    He gave us a great gift, an appreciation for the Universal Language, Music. He will be missed by many, we hope to see and hear his music at the Big Dinner in the Sky.

  • Stoney Bird

    I met Jerry in 1990 when I and my family moved to Old Day Creek Road not far from where he lived. We quickly discovered a mutual interest in music and with Gail Huggins and Dan Duggin formed the Old Day Creek Road Ensemble. The Ensemble performed several times at Jerry’s Beethoven’s Birthday concerts and also at other venues.

    Jerry was one of the inspirations for the Skagit Valley peace group People for a Peaceable Planet. I remember particularly one occasion when Jerry placed a giant condom on the cannon aimed out over the valley in front of the Skagit County Court House. His gentleness, his kindness, his humor have made a lasting impression.

  • Elizabeth Martindale

    I was a freshman playing cello in the orchestra at Sedro Woolley High School when Jerry was hired to be our orchestra director. He wasn’t much older than the rest of us. We had an excellent orchestra at SWHS for the many years he worked there.
    He also became a dear family friend to the Carlos Shafer family over the many years we were all in Sedro Woolley.
    He was an outstanding orchestra instructor with lots of enthusiasm and energy.
    I remember when he was the music director at the Sedro Woolley Methodist Church.

  • Karen McCormack

    I grew up in Big Lake and Jerry was a big part of our schooling. He was a great man and mentor and knew so much about music. Rest in peace Jerry. So sad to see you are gone.

  • Jan Knudson Batt

    One always remembers a special piano teacher. I studied with Jerry for 6 years in Jr. High and High School in the sixties. He exposed me to many of the classical composers and inspired me to continue studying at UW. JERRY was a very talented man with a great sense of humor. He was a pillar at Sedro Woolley United Methodist Church. Thank you Jerry.

  • Danny Blomquist

    He was a great man. Every time I pass the court house, I will think of him.

  • Susan Redd

    28 April 2019.
    For the family and friends of Jerry,
    I extend my heartfelt sympathy for the loss of a musician, a leader in human rights, and a real contributor to our community.
    His presence in front of the County Courthouse was an inspiration to those of us who knew him and his causes. Rain or shine, we’d see Jerry holding his sign, waving to those passing by, devoted to keeping peace as a focus for our leaders.
    Cordially, Susan Redd

  • John Doan

    From Jerry Sommerseth’s 5th grade music class:

    This Land Is Your Land
    Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

    This land is your land This land is my land
    From California to the New York island;
    From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land was made for you and Me.

    As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
    I saw above me that endless skyway:
    I saw below me that golden valley:
    This land was made for you and me.

    I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
    To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
    And all around me a voice was sounding:
    This land was made for you and me.

    When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
    And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
    As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
    This land was made for you and me.

    As I went walking I saw a sign there
    And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
    But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
    That side was made for you and me.

    In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
    By the relief office I seen my people;
    As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
    Is this land made for you and me?

    Nobody living can ever stop me,
    As I go walking that freedom highway;
    Nobody living can ever make me turn back
    This land was made for you and me.