[4/26/22] Remembering Harriet Bullitt

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We take a few minutes here to remember our former owner, Harriet Stimson Bullitt, who passed away Saturday.

Harriet purchased KOZI AM and FM from Jerry Isenhart in 1999, and the company she created, Icicle Broadcasting, owned it until this past October. She was a multi-faceted lady, with wide interests and wide knowledge. Harriet Bullitt was born into prominence in 1924: her grandfather was C.D. Stimson, owner of Seattle’s largest sawmill and real estate tycoon whose company helped reshape Seattle after the great fire of 1889.
During World War II, Harriet was the first woman enrolled into the engineering school at the University of Washington, but left after encountering discrimination: the story goes that the dean told her to avoid the library because she was distracting the male students. She moved to Vermont, got married, had two kids, and took up fencing, eventually winning the New England Women’s Fencing Championship, defeating a future Hollywood star, Olympia Dukakis.
From Vermont, her family moved to Florida, where Harriet worked as a protein chemist at the University of Florida at Gainesville. Her job included milking the poison from venomous snakes to make antivenom. She was also a scuba diver and a tugboat captain.
In 1962, after a divorce, she returned to Seattle, where her mother, Dorothy Bullitt, had started King Broadcasting in 1946. But Harriet had little interest in broadcasting, and went back to the UW, graduating in 1965 with a degree in zoology. She soon thereafter began the Pacific Search newsletter, which is now Seattle Magazine.
In the 1980s, Harriet put her fencing swords aside and took up flamenco dancing. She lived on a barge in Lake Union, which was pulled by a tugboat, both of which had dance floors.
In 1989, Dorothy Bullitt died, and control of King Broadcasting passed to Harriet and her sister Patsy. They decided to sell the company and used the proceeds to fund the Bullitt Foundation, which was established by their mother, and has since provided more than 300 million dollars in grants to environmental and conservation causes over the years.
The Bullitt’s ties to Central Washington go back to the 1930s, and a 300 acre property on the east side of Icicle Creek in Leavenworth. Harriet bought an adjacent property in 1995 and built the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort. In 2001, the American Institute of Architects named it one of the Top Ten Green projects in the nation. She also created the Icicle Fund in 1998 to support arts, environment, cultural and natural history in North Central Washington. In 1999, she began Icicle Broadcasting, purchasing KOZI and starting KOHO radio in Leavenworth, and we note that her passing comes literally a few days after KOHOs switch to a jazz format from Northwest Public Broadcasting.
Harriet had been in declining health for some time, and the end came Saturday at her home at Sleeping Lady. She is survived by her two children, Wenda O’Reilly and Scott Brewster, and her fourth husband, Alex Voronin, whom she met at a flamenco dancing party.
Perhaps the best tribute to Harriet came from Governor Jay Inslee, who said in 2013, “We have three icons in the state of Washington. One is Mount Rainier, the second is the Columbia River, and the third is Harriet Bullitt. All larger than life.”
Harriet Bullitt was 97.