ARMIN LÜTHI, remembered
Armin Lüthi , Natalie Lüthi-Peterson’s husband of 59 years, died of cancer September 10th at his home in the Ecole d’Humanité. With him were his four children, Doey, Molly, Chris and Piet.
There are so many ways to remember Armin. Although music was his first passion, he was, first and foremost, an educator. He taught math but he saw teaching opportunities everywhere. There are scores of Ecole students who remain convinced that Armin loved to peel potatoes. Every morning he would peel the Lüthi family’s allotment of potatoes with great enthusiasm (and speed). Potato by potato he proved to students that work could be fun, that menial tasks were beneath no-one, and the value of everyone working together.
What Armin explicitly did NOT want his legacy to be was that of a wise man, which he felt was not at all an accurate reflection. The wise man image may be tough to erase. For one thing, many of his friends, family and former students have a favorite Armin quote that could be construed as wisdom. My favorite is, “There is no bad food. There is only insufficient garlic!” (He once told me he had never said half the things people said he did!)
Rather than providing answers, Armin asked questions. He defined his own role, both in the Ecole and in LPC as that of “Palace Fool” (his term.) By this he meant that he was simply the one holding up the mirror so that truth would be reflected back. At LPC meetings, he would listen to campers and counselors talk glowingly about their wonderful camp experiences, and then he would ask, “But what was terrible in your camp?” Because only in thinking about what had not gone well, could LPC continue to improve. When directors at the Christmas Conference would report how much fun the kids had had, Armin asked, “Is that enough? Is LPC just a place for children to have fun?” He wasn’t being critical – like Natalie, he often marveled at the impact of LPC on campers’ lives. He felt it was his job to get us to continue to think about the whys and the hows, so that we would keep trying to do better.
When we remember Armin we will remember his violin and his years and years of leading singing. He loved to sing himself and spent several summers singing with the Europa Cantat, but what we will always cherish is the music he shared with us. When we sang well he was satisfied. When we sounded terrible, he had us try again the next day. He was a demanding taskmaster but one with great humor. His facial expressions alone could convulse students. And he inspired us to make music a bigger part of our lives.
Armin and Natalie were a team, working together on their own family, on LPC and on the Ecole all of their lives. That they could do all three at the same time with such fantastic results is a formidable life’s achievement. The stories of the challenges they faced, the people they worked with and the educational methods they pioneered could fill several volumes. For those who have been lucky enough to know both of them, they filled our hearts.
– Gigi Wizowaty