Poet Theodore Roethke dies on August 1, 1963.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 8/24/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 1642

On August 1, 1963, poet Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), winner of the Pulitzer and Bollingen prizes, is found dead in a swimming pool. He was attending a party at the Bainbridge Island estate of Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Although many suspect alchohol contributed to his death, the coroner will find that he died of a coronary occlusion.

Contrary to widely circulated misinformation, the Bloedels did not have the pool filled with soil immediately after Roethke's death. It was left unchanged until the early 1980s, when it was replaced by the Garden of the Planes, designed by noted landscape architect Richard Haag (b. 1923). In 1986, that was replaced in turn by the existing (2012) Japanese sand and rock garden, designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana (1930-1990). 


Allan Seager, The Glass House (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968); Bloedel Reserve, 1999; Bloedel Reserve Executive Director Edward Moydell email to John Caldbick, May 2, 2012, in possession of John Caldbick, Seattle, Washington.
Note: This essay was emended on May 3, 2012, to correct information about the filling of the pool at the Bloedel Reserve.

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