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Memorials: University Friends Meeting

Mervyn Lee Suitor

Date of birth

Sept. 8, 1942

Date of death

Feb. 4, 2018


University Friends Meeting

Memorial minute

Mervyn Lee Suitor was born in San Francisco on February 4th, 1942, to Mervyn Suitor and the former Margaret Maida Rice. He was born into the Episcopal Church.

He used M. Lee and then Lee as his first name, the latter during the last 15 or so years.

Lee’s musical gift was recognized early;  he was a prodigy in childhood. His musical education included graduate school at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where one teacher who influenced him was a Quaker. He spent his professional life in various churches and one synagogue as organist, conductor, and leader of choirs; he also composed hymns.

Lee found church politics bruising, and believed some clergy undervalued the contributions of musicians.  The loss of a job at the pinnacle in his career in 1979 was particularly painful. When he was 43, a back injury left him with permanent nerve damage. He retired at 54 because he could no longer tolerate holding his arms out for extended periods to practice at the keyboard. Lee moved to Seattle around 2000.

One thing he appreciated about unprogrammed Friends is that there is no formal music programming, hence no associated politics.

Lee’s birth family has been characterized as “difficult”. In his adult life, he also experienced relationship difficulties, with two divorces and estrangement from time to time from his two children from the second marriage, somewhat reflecting the difficulties he experienced with his own birth family.  His children and sister did make efforts maintain contact with him and were supportive. During his final illness, he expressed great joy at visiting with his son Paul. Lee chose not to pursue aggressive chemotherapy for the cancer to which he succumbed, in part because of his other medical issues. He did not believe that fighting the  cancer held out much promise for meaningful pain free time.

Lee found UFM in  2014, and joined in 2016, attracted by social action, lack of orthodoxy, and the thought of finding a home where he could be intellectually and spiritually honest. He rose in Meeting to say “you are my family” on several occasions.

At UFM he served on the Facilities and Peace and Social concerns committees.  Lee sometimes manifested a low threshold for outrage when he believed we were not behaving in a manner consistent with the good order of Friends. However, he was willing to season his concerns, and this behavior mellowed with time and illness.

Lee also participated actively in the life of the Seattle public housing complexes where he lived: first at Stewart Manor and then at Four Freedoms House. In the last two years of his life Lee served as secretary and then President of the Resident Action Council, a tenant self-advocacy organization serving anyone whose housing is managed by the Seattle Housing Authority.

Lee died on November 18th, 2017 at Swedish Hospital in Edmonds, Washington.

Lee is survived by daughter Jennifer Smith, her husband Jon,  their two children Brooke and Brennan. Also by his son Paul Suitor, his Wife Michelle and their two boys Nathan and Andrew. Lee's Sister Jill Suitor also survives him.