Peter Amacher

Date of Birth

January 29, 1932

Date of Death

January 27, 2023

City of Death

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Melchior Peter Amacher died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Friday, January 27, two days short of his 91st birthday. Peter was a zippo logger, a historian of science, a mountaineer, a housebuilder, a medical foundation executive, an importer, a storyteller—a man of many talents. He was born in 1932 in Hillsboro, Oregon to Helen (Bergamini) Amacher and Alfred Amacher, the second of two sons. After graduating from Hillsboro High School, Peter attended Reed College for a year and then moved east and graduated from Amherst College. Drafted in the early 50s, he spent two years in the Army, based in Germany. Peter claimed to love being in the Army because a) he always knew what clothes to wear, and b) being in post-war Germany, he was able to indulge his love for opera at very low cost. He returned to the West Coast to attend graduate school at the University of Washington, where he received a PhD in the history of science. During grad school he spent many weeks climbing in the North Cascades and the Canadian Rockies, and had a life-long love of mountains.

In 1957 in Seattle, Peter married Sue Biggs, and their daughter Lawry soon arrived. In the early 60s he moved to Los Angeles, where he served as director of the Brain Information Service, affiliated with the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. During his years in Los Angeles, Peter traveled to the Eastern Sierra regularly to climb with a group of friends, and also took part in two expeditions to the Andes to attempt climbs of Aconcaqua and Huascaran. During those years climbing was central to his enjoyment of life.

In 1971 Peter moved to Santa Barbara and took up a position as Conference Director for the Kroc Foundation in the Santa Ynez Valley (founded by Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds), serving in that role for ten years, organizing medical research conferences with top scientists from around the world and editing conference proceedings, shepherding them through the publication process. In 1973 he married Shelley Gault—they honeymooned by climbing Temple Crag in the Eastern Sierra, and spent several summers hiking and climbing in the Canadian Rockies, or cruising in the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. Their son John Gault Amacher was born in 1976–he took his first Canadian wilderness trip to Mt. Robson in the Rockies at five months. The family took several European road trips while John was a toddler and grade schooler, and had a lot of adventures camping in the Sierras and in Baja California.

During his tenure at the Kroc Foundation, Peter also built a couple of spec houses and remodeled the family homes, developing a growing preference for construction over the academic world he had spent 20 years in.

After a brief period as an executive with the Keck Foundation in Los Angeles, in 1986 Peter moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he began buying, remodeling and selling houses, gradually developing a reputation for tasteful design. Son John moved to Santa Fe in 2007 and joined his dad in the business for a time. Peter’s last years were spent with his partner Mary Utton in Santa Fe, retired and researching Swiss military training and nuclear armament, still traveling to the UK and Mexico.

After a long period of declining health, Peter died suddenly after a fall in his residence. He was predeceased by his brother Robert, his first wife Sue, and his daughter Lawry, and is survived by his partner Mary Utton, his ex-wife Shelley Gault, son John and daughter-in-law Jana (Egbert) Amacher, grandchildren Natalya Amacher and Chris McKinney, sister-in-law Shirley Amacher and nieces Dana Odney and Alexandra Merlino. He also leaves behind friends from many areas of his life. He was one of a kind, charming and funny and interested in pretty much everything.

To send memories of Peter and for information about a memorial gathering to be held in Spring in Santa Fe, email Donations to environmental charities in Peter’s name are welcome.


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