Michael (Mike) Norton Yarrow

Date of Birth

March 8th, 1940

Date of Death

June 2nd, 2014

Memorial Meeting

University Friends Meeting


Michael Norton Yarrow (Mike), a much loved sociology professor and organizer for peace and justice, died in Seattle Washington on June 2, 2014.

Mike was born in Oxford Mississippi on March 8, 1940, to parents who became Friends as a result of their experience with the social gospel and Quaker work camps of the 1930’s. He spent his early school years in a Quaker school in southern California and high school years in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. He first encountered issues of race and class, and the challenge of not being part of the “in crowd" in Swarthmore. The Swarthmore Meeting high school fellowship provided a welcome space for him to explore social and religious issues.

At 18 Mike applied for conscientious objector status. He attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he met his future wife, Ruth Morris. After graduation, Mike served two years of alternative service at Friends’ Peace Committee in Philadelphia. He tested his resolve to take nonviolent action in a life-threatening situation by registering voters in Mississippi with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s 1964 Freedom Summer.

While earning a Master’s degree in Sociology at Cornell University, he and Ruth married in a Quaker ceremony. In the next half dozen years his work included research on poverty, carpentry, running a tutorial center, and teaching in an alternative school and at Stockton State College, New Jersey.

Mike completed hundreds of interviews with Appalachian coal miners for his doctoral degree from Rutgers University that focused on how the miners understood the issues affecting their lives. He taught sociology at Ithaca College for 18 years while he and Ruth raised their children Matthew and Delia, and joined Ithaca Friends Meeting.

In 1997, when Mike took early retirement, he and Ruth moved to Seattle, drawn both by the mountains and by the opportunity to pursue second careers as activists. Mike especially enjoyed working with Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation where he launched the Peace Activist Trainee program. Over 14 years the program has graduated more than 90 high school students. He was active on the boards of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the pro-soldier anti-war center Coffee Strong, and the Abe Keller Peace Education Fund. He and Ruth nurtured themselves with extensive outdoor adventures, hiking high mountain trails, canoeing lakes, and rafting rivers.

Mike asked for a clearness committee when he transferred his membership to University Friends’ Meeting from Ithaca in 2001. Their report quotes him as questioning the ‘’ unloving social arrangement” and “pale pleasures of consumerism” that permeate life in North America. He felt that Quaker communities ought to inspire, nurture, and goad Friends to test one another’s life decisions and follow the “path of love”. Mike played this role with energy and humor at University Friends Meeting, and will also be fondly remembered for singing in Meeting for Worship. The Meeting will miss the passion, values, and joy Mike brought to his work on social concerns.

He is survived by his wife Ruth Yarrow, son Matthew Yarrow, daughter Delia Yarrow, brother Douglas Yarrow, their families and a loving extended family.