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NATALIE LÜTHI-PETERSON 

FEBRUARY 26, 1926 – NOVEMBER 23, 2012 

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NatalieNatalie Lüthi-Peterson, the founder of LPC, died November 23, 2012, in Goldern, the place that she loved, with the family and friends that she loved. By now, Natalie’s life story is familiar to most of us, whether we knew her personally or not. How as an idealistic college student on her junior year abroad she came up with a plan (together with college friend Pavey Lupton) to help heal the wounds of World War II by starting an international summer camp. How she met and married Armin Lüthi and began teaching at the Ecole d’Humanité in Switzerland, eventually to co-direct the school with Armin. How she raised four of her own kids (Piet, Chris, Molly and Doey) and countless others at the Ecole. How she started a rich and wonderful tradition of Shakespeare, challenged traditional gender roles with men’s and women’s groups, taught hundreds of seniors the art of effective writing, and all the while nurturing LPC and running camps herself every summer until the 1980s. In 1949 when LPC began, there was still a strong edict that women who worked outside the home could never have happy family lives! Natalie did it all.

When we think of Natalie, we think of her animated demonstration of Prospero to a budding Shakespearean, her slapping her leg with enthusiasm at a new idea in an LPC conference, her war on the slugs in her garden, her finding the humor in a tense situation. We think of her talking with exasperation of a difficult colleague and how that would immediately be followed with, “but he’s so terrific at such and such!” We think of her listening intently to visitor after visitor and her interest in hearing of their lives, their children, their parents.

If it is impossible to imagine LPC without Natalie, it is because LPC is an organization that embodies all the character traits that made up Natalie herself. If you read through the hundreds of Facebook comments that are now pouring in from former and current LPCers, you will see repeatedly, “Natalie believed in me and made me feel like I could do things I hadn’t thought I could.” “She trusted us, and so we rose to the occasion.” As a true educator, Natalie believed in learning by experience. But just as importantly, she never thought there was just one way to get something done. Whether it was lack of ego, a rare open-mindedness, or something she was not even conscious of, these are extraordinary qualities with long range consequences. And they have become embodied in LPC. LPC as an organization allows campers and counselors the space to try leading a new activity, or to sing a solo, or hike up a mountain. Camp assemblies create the opportunity for addressing problems for which there may be many solutions. Counselors are entrusted by directors with huge responsibilities. LPC is, in fact, Natalie.

A number of years ago, LPC’s Christmas Conference of directors began to worry how the organization would continue without Natalie’s leadership. Natalie herself was unconcerned (“You’ll figure it out!”) but was probably also relieved at the forming of the LPC Ex-Com, a rotating trio of directors which for years now has served as LPC’s final authority when the Christmas Conference is not in session. (It should be noted here that we decided it would take three directors to replace Natalie!)

In the coming months, LPC directors and the Lüthi family will suggest a way that Natalie’s memory can best be honored, and those who want to will have a chance to contribute or help. Natalie was never comfortable with the outpouring of gratitude expressed by parents and kids who loved LPC. She seemed amazed each and every time someone told her how much LPC had meant to them. But this remarkable woman made an extraordinary contribution. Maybe she would have allowed us all to say one last time, Thank you, Natalie. You changed our lives.

– Gigi Wizowaty