Walter Clinton

1952 ~ 2020 (age 68)


On Sunday, May 17, 2020 Walter Clinton died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes at the age of 68. He was born in Berkeley, California in 1952 to Bettie and Ray Clinton.

Walter grew up in Mountain View, California, and received his PhD in Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1990. His dissertation was on the reproductive endeavors of male elephant seals. He performed extensive research toward this goal on Año Nuevo Island, a protected breeding site in San Mateo County. He met his wife Autumn Blanchard while working with her both in the classroom and on the island.

Autumn recalls:
”I arrived at UCSC in 1986 and in my first week classes I was assigned a TA, Walter Clinton, for Psychobiology. He wore shorts and sneakers and SNEAKER SOCKS! He had tattoos. He was a good teacher. He was kind to the students. He asked students to go to Año Nuevo during break to help take data and that’s how I ended up alone on an island with Walter. On the trip down the dunes to the boat, I heard a pup warble and bleat for the first time, and even though he had heard it several thousand times, Walter laughed to hear it, and so did I. We became friends. We moved in together and then got married. Walter loved animals and birds and really cared about them. He cried when Gem, one of his ‘boys’ died. He was scientific, and smart, and rigorous about data, but he knew that animals have souls, and brains and feelings. He admired their intelligence and bravery and ability to play and enjoy life. He loved our dog and our birds. He tried to protect me from things that were too violent or gruesome. When he needed to stand up and be assertive with someone he had no trouble doing that, but mostly he was sweet natured.”

Walter worked as a biological observer on fishing boats in Alaska, some of those boats were featured in the TV show “The Deadliest Catch”. After training in Seattle, he spent months at a time on trawlers in the Bering Sea observing catches of rockfish, cod, sablefish, and sometimes crab. It was a hard life with bad weather and cold temperatures, a bizarre schedule, and rarely enough sleep. After he was injured on a fishing boat, he returned to Seattle and began working as a programmer analyst for various public and private healthcare agencies.

He also worked briefly as an adjunct at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. He and Autumn moved between several other states, including Vermont and New York, before Walter eventually moved back to Seattle where he returned to work analyzing data in the healthcare research field.

Walter was an avid fencer. He fenced both sabre and epee, although he favored sabre. He fenced at UCSC and later in Burlington, Vermont. When he studied something, he put his whole attention on it, and practiced. He traveled around the country to attend fencing competitions, and in his fifties he was one of the nation's top ten sabre fencers in his age group.

He played the clarinet in his youth, performing in the high school marching band. His joys included bicycle riding, hiking and back packing, food and wine, music and films, and most recently genealogy.

Walter was preparing to retire from his career in health care research, and transition to his new passion, DNA analysis and genealogy. He had performed extensive personal research in this area, and he had traveled often to meet with professional genealogists at conferences, as well as to meet distant relatives in Ireland.

He is remembered fondly by his academic and private sector colleagues for his generosity with his time and knowledge, and for his patience in teaching and sharing his many skills.

He is survived by his ex-wife and life-long friend Autumn Blanchard in Saebel, New York; his brother C.W.O. Philip Clinton (US Navy, retired) in Virginia Beach, Virginia; and his sister Ann Martin in Portland, Oregon.

In lieu of flowers his family suggests donations in his memory to the Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory, Institute of Marine Sciences, UC Santa Cruz.

Donations in his memory would also be appreciated to the Seattle Genealogical Society, or to Salle Auriol Seattle, a non-profit member club of the United States Fencing Association where Walter was active.

Links to where you can donate online may be found below.

His family welcomes you to share your recollections of him – photographs, stories, and memories here in the comments on his Tribute Wall. These will be shared when we can gather face-to-face, or virtually, to celebrate Walter’s incredible life.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Walter Clinton, please visit our floral store.


Private Committal

Mount Pleasant Cemetery
700 West Raye Street
Seattle, WA 98119

Please note
Walter will be interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Seattle. No services are permitted at this time due to COVID-19 restrictions. A celebration of his life will be scheduled, possibly near Santa Cruz and Año Nuevo Island in California, when it is safe to travel, and/or virtually for those unable to travel.


Institute of Marine Sciences
Santa Cruz CA

Seattle Genealogical Society
Seattle WA

Salle Auriol Seattle
Seattle WA

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