Humanitarian, arts activist and writer Scott Gorman of Anacortes, 54, died peacefully in Mount Vernon on June 20 of a heart attack after a long battle with diabetes.
“He was always an inspiration to me to try to be a better person,” said longtime friend Ed Malick.
Gorman worked with many arts volunteers to establish or support such organizations as Anacortes Youth Arts.
He was a Fulbright grant winner, Anacortes Patron of the Arts, editor of the Anacortes American and cultural education coordinator for the Anacortes School District. He is best known for his humane, heartfelt writings, which were printed in numerous publications.
He attended college on an acting scholarship and some of his plays were produced by National Theater for Children, he said. He worked for a few years in San Francisco producing and writing public service announcements, but he really wanted to be a writer.
Gorman joked in 2006 that he came to Anacortes 27 years ago largely because of federal cuts to arts programs and the administration’s advice that people get active in local arts.
“I came to a small town and I did what I could,” he said. “I was following the dictates of Ronald Reagan, and that scared me.”
He was here two months, working as a nanny to two young girls, when he helped start Anacortes Youth Arts. He joined the board of Anacortes Arts Foundation and participated in local theater as an actor and producer.
He spent many years as a volunteer with the Anacortes Arts Festival, and was stage manager and master of ceremonies for the festival’s stage.
In the mid-1980s, he started an arts page at the Anacortes American, where he was a writer and columnist. He did a year-long stint as editor of the paper. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he wrote about the arts and other topics for the Everett Herald. In general, he tried to work about 20 hours a week — enough to meet basic needs — then volunteer the rest of his time.
He and Peter Heffelfinger co-founded the Anacortes Film Festival, showing films at the old theater on Commercial Avenue and 22nd Street, and then leading a discussion.
Gorman called the Lincoln Theatre the direct heir of the Anacortes festival. He was stage manager and film columnist for the Lincoln until the late 1990s.
In recognition of his contributions, the School District named him co-winner of the Walter A. Brodniak Cultural Education Award in 2005 and the Arts Festival selected him as the 2006 Patron of the Arts.
By the mid-1990s, he again contributed to the American and Fidalgo Magazine and wrote about arts and travel for the Skagit Valley Herald, the Toronto Star and other publications. In the late 1990s, Gorman published the best of his columns as the thought-provoking “Gormandizing: Collected Essays and More.”
After Gorman visited Anacortes’ sister city, Kisakata, Japan, he was hungry to learn more about the town’s culture and history. He applied for a Fulbright Senior Research Grant, which provided a residency and study period in Japan.
Although he was affiliated with a tiny newspaper and lacked a degree, he wrote an outstanding proposal and won, becoming the first person without a college degree to win a Fulbright scholarship.
Gorman arrived in Kisakata in September 2001, and lived six months in a shoji-screened home. In a place where few spoke English, he was immersed in the culture and forced to adapt to local customs.
His efforts to blend in and growing love of the people were detailed with great humor and humility in a series of columns that ran in the American. After returning home, he was arts liaison between the Sister Cities Association and Kisakata.
“He was a unique guy that brought a lot of energy and positive things to sister cities,” said Duane Clark, the organization’s president.
Clark was particularly touched by Gorman’s efforts to get Doyle Geer to Kisakata — a trip that turned out to be the last for both of them.
“It was fulfilling one of Doyle’s final wishes,” Clark said. “It was kind of one of those magical things.”
As a Jewish peace activist, he lectured extensively on arts and religion at churches and other venues. When he was Anacortes School District’s cultural coordinator, he brought a group of Muslims to talk with children at the schools.
Gorman gave up his job with the school district in 2005. His health improved after major heart surgery, although his writing and mobility were limited by pain in his hands and feet. He was always inspired to continue writing.
He said his work followed the Jewish tradition of supporting and contributing to the arts, both on stage and behind the scenes, so people can be reached and touched.
“It’s a mandate from God. Mitzah, it means ‘good deed.’ Among the greatest of good deeds is to tap their emotions, their laughter, and to create an understanding where one doesn’t exist,” he said in a 2006 interview.
Heffelfinger said Gorman did all those things in Anacortes, making a wide, deep impact.
“He certainly cut a wide swath, whether it was reporting or supporting things in the community,” Heffelfinger said. “He was a generalist in that he cut across a lot of spectrums. He was unique. He didn’t fit into any one niche or box.”