Annelise Pysanky

Date of Birth

January 15th, 1952

Date of Death

November 13th, 2011

Memorial Meeting

Bellingham Friends Meeting


Annelise Pysanky, 59, died peacefully in her Bellingham home, surrounded by loving friends and family, on Nov. 13, 2011. She had been living with familial idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis for two years. She was born Elise Ann Kurutz on January 15, 1952, to Bertha Baltuth Kurutz and John William Kurutz, in Upland, California.

Annelise was a feminist and an activist. She worked courageously all her life for peace, social justice and equal rights for women. . A founding member of the Bellingham Friends Meeting, she was first introduced to Quakers as a young adult at the University of California at Irvine, where she helped start an anti-Vietnam War group. She also adopted a St. Bernard puppy she named "Mahatma."

In 1973, Annelise moved to Bellingham and discovered a deep love of nature and community. She was active in the Blackwell Women's Health Collective, Northwest Passage alternative newspaper, the Community Food Coop, the Community Land Trust and the Holy Smokers fire crew. Six summers she worked for the U.S. Forest Service on fire suppression crews in Mt. Baker Snoqualmie Forest, the last two years as a Baker River Hot Shot firefighter. In 1989, she climbed Mount Baker.

Annelise scored 100 on the USPS test in 1979 and became a letter carrier, a profession she loved. She took pride in being an active union member, and was an enthusiastic promoter of the annual letter carriers Food Bank drive. She was also an incredible artist, making exquisite Ukrainian eggs and stunning decorative tiles. She changed her name to Pysanky after the style of hand-decorated eggs she created.

Annelise loved to laugh, to garden, to create beauty indoors and out, and to be with her dogs, (Maya, Zoe and Amelia succeeded Mahatma), and her pampered chickens. She took a childlike delight in everything, from the beauty of maple leaves in the fall, to the emergence of the first shoots of asparagus in her garden in spring. As one friend said, if Annelise loved something, "it got swarmed." Outspoken and direct, she was always ready to "do something" about injustice. In December of 2010, she flew to Washington, D.C., to take part in a peace demonstration and be arrested for civil disobedience. Trailblazer and gentle firebrand to the end, she chatted with the arresting officers, praising their courtesy to "little old ladies" such as herself! Annelise gave generously to causes she believed in, always an active supporter of the Bellingham Friends Meeting and other progressive local and national groups.

After being diagnosed with familial idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and actively researching the disease and its history of rapid decline and difficult deaths for other members of her family, she was determined to die with dignity, in a manner of her own timing and choice. With the support of her care committee, she was able to make use of Washington State’s Death with Dignity legislation Annelise’s conscious and deliberate death was an act of courage and an honor to all who were able to support her in that decision.

She will be missed by sister Donna Bryant of Santa Rosa, California, and her family of friends in Bellingham and elsewhere. She was preceded in death by her mother, father and two brothers; her father and brothers also died of pulmonary fibrosis.

Memorials may be made to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), AFSC Development, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102, and to Whatcom Hospice Foundation, 2901 Squalicum Parkway, Bellingham, WA 98225.

A memorial service took place on January 15, 2012.