Craig David Kyte
1943 - 2017
Craig David Kyte, born September 25, 1943, died November 1, 2017 of alcohol-related disease, in Seattle, Washington.
An only child of Frank and Evelyn, Craig grew up near Disneyland, then went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where he came to realize he was gay. On the first day of school, he befriended a young straight lad, David Hull, who in time introduced him to his first gay friend, Mark Benson. As these three Friends in the company of one another grew into who they were, a friendship was forged that endured throughout their lives. It is a remarkable friendship—two gays and one straight—with attractions and tensions that twist and turn back upon itself like a three-strand rope.
After graduating from San Francisco State College, Craig joined the Peace Corps and taught English in Ethiopia, where he came to love its food, its art, and its people. Ethiopia influenced his taste and brought into high relief the common humanity just inside the skin.
His career began and ended at Seattle Public Library. Not long after he began in 1972, he was appointed head of the Government Documents Department. While there, Craig received the Rinehart Librarian Award which "honors the librarian who demonstrates innovation, provides excellent service for patrons, and nurtures personal talents of others." He was instrumental in the modernization of reference work at the Seattle Public Library, leading committees which set internal standards for reference and customer service. In 1998, he served on a team that received the City Librarian's Award for bringing innovations to internet reference work, including the introduction of "Live Help," an early version of the online “Ask a Librarian.”
A gifted conversationalist who remembered the things and people important to his acquaintances, Craig thereby forged lasting friends wherever he went. Right to the end, even in pain, he was interested in what his friends were doing and how their wives, husbands, lovers, friends were.
Throughout his tenure, Craig was the recognized fashion icon of the library staff, though he wore that recognition lightly and with pointed humor, once remarking upon institution of “Casual Fridays” that he had no jeans, so he would simply “not press my pants for that day.”
Craig was so valued by his fellow workers that he was elected president of his union, and was so effective in negotiations with library management that he was co-opted into management, where he made still another round of friends, rising to Head of General Reference. In October, 2008, he retired.
In his private life, not long after returning from Ethiopia, he and Jim Bush moved in together in 1978. Jim completed a doctorate at University of San Francisco and became a professor of nursing at University of Washington. Each evening, as Jim and one of their condo friends, Cate Mallory, returned home after work, they would pause on their doorsteps to review the state of the world and how “they were not listening to us.” Each summer for years, Craig and Jim would spend a week on the seacoast of the Olympic peninsula. They were a solid and loving couple for 28 years, then Jim died in 2006. Craig’s two orange tabbies, Harold and Memo, aka the Marmalade Twins or “the boys,” became his closest companions in the last few years.
Craig had exquisite taste not only in clothing but also in whatever he touched. Each element of furnishing and decoration in their condo bears evidence not only of quality and distinction, but also balance and careful deliberation. Red glass informs dark wood, sliding Japanese paper screens in delicate wooden frames delineate rooms, a carved Asian-like scene answers a painting or the dramatic enlarged photograph (by Mark, who also took the attached photo of Craig) of a dove descending.
Craig’s taste extended notably to music, and the symphony and opera were daily staples as well as season tickets. He went to Europe in 2013 on a tour of Master Composers, which not only deepened his love of J. S. Bach (resulting in hundreds of Bach CDs) but also resulted in new friends, one of which—Cheryl Gagne—turned out to live only two blocks away.
As his disease progressed, his friends picked up the dropped threads of his life, especially but not exclusively those friends in his condo and immediate neighborhood--Bryan Harrison, Cate and Cheryl—assuring his monthly bills were paid, his cats fed, and taking him as needed to hospital.
David visited Craig in December, thinking it was to say goodbye, but daring to hope. Then Mark as a medical person and with Craig’s medical power of attorney, prepared the steps necessary for Craig to undergo a medical alcoholic detox—and his agreement to each step was a surprise approaching the miraculous to both David and Mark. Mark had begun occasional interactive updates to Friends of Craig, which bound together his friends and increased their contact with Craig. He emerged sober and had four months, during which friends far and wide came to visit him. He celebrated his 74th birthday all day long with various friends.
Mark and David held an Open House Memorial in his condo on November 5, attended by 23 friends. Craig's wide embrace of friendship was apparent there, with people including friends from his condo, his hospice care, his library years, his gardener, the world at large, and his love of music…including an English horn musician from the Seattle Symphony, who declared that Craig could “lecture on Bach.”
Craig wrote poetry his entire life. After Ethiopia he became less open about his private life, but his deepest thoughts and feelings were transmuted by his art, finding abstracted but powerful and clear-eyed expression in his poems. From “In the End”: “…sorrow, like banked fog against summer shores/drifting toward the last nadir of night….”