Deborah Rutter :: In memoriam Craig Watjen

I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Craig Watjen passing. I read with love and emotion all of the generous words shared about Craig which made me cry openly and mourn privately. His laugh, his unique accent, his wry sense of humor, all of these I remembered and “heard” in the obituary and public commentary. Between my friends who knew him, we shared in his loss deeply.

Craig was a man of great conviction. He knew what he believed in and he stood by those beliefs ferociously. You could be on the same side or arguing a point and you always respected him for his thinking, his reasoning, his intellectual rigor, and always his passion. I loved it that Craig was a great business man, a great man who loved his hobbies and that one of those hobbies was also mine: the love of great classical music.

I have a great story I tell often to board members and development colleagues of how I met Craig and Joan. As we were in the process of raising the money for and making the plans for the construction of Benaroya Hall we had numerous fundraising events in private homes where we displayed the model of the building, offered some great music and talked about the project. Craig and Joan were at such an event and were, at that time, not terribly well known in our SSO family. I was “sent over to talk to them” by one of my development officers and after introducing myself and talking about the project, I had a sense that I had met two new “best friends” – not just for me but for the Seattle Symphony. Craig had shown some interest but as he asked more questions, probed us for considering greater options, and how to make a good idea great, that interest grew and grew.

The rest is history of course and Benaroya Hall is uniquely identified by its magnificent organ and the truly remarkable space known as Soundbridge, arguably and enviably one of the most interesting and engaging places for music exploration associated with a concert hall. These and so many other projects were touched by and made better because of Craig.

He was a friend, an inspiration and a great philanthropist. But most importantly, he was a good guy. I miss him very much!

Deborah F. Rutter
President
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Assn.

 
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