Obituary: Harry Thomas Amyotte, 55, longtime Darien resident

Harry Thomas Amyotte
Harry Thomas Amyotte

Harry Thomas Amyotte, a longtime resident of Darien, CT, died on August 25, 2018 while hiking in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with his family. He had a heart attack caused by an undiagnosed genetic heart condition. Harry was 55.

Harry grew up in Stoughton, Wisconsin and graduated from Stoughton High School in 1981. He attended Lawrence University on a full scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude with degrees in History and Art in 1985. Harry was recruited to Columbia University for a PhD in Modern European Intellectual History with another full scholarship. At Columbia, however, his historical study of financial markets redirected his path to New York University to pursue an MBA. He graduated with Distinction in 1990.

Harry was a member of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of the Chippewa Nation. Professionally, Harry was a banker specializing in Corporate Finance. He worked in a number of roles at Scotia Bank in New York City for the past 20 years, and previously at Citibank and Sumitomo Bank, also in NYC.

He was known for his capital market insight and sage advice, and was a trusted advisor to many companies in the technological and media industries. Harry was admired by his colleagues for his credit acumen and sound judgment. According to his boss at Scotia, Harry was brilliant, kind-hearted, fair, and he was always, always a team player.

Harry married his hometown sweetheart, Kathryn, in 1986. Their lifelong love of music and theater began as they met in a Stoughton Middle School production of Oliver!, when Harry was “Mr. Bumble” and Kathryn was the “Milk Seller.” In high school they participated in all of the select choirs, musicals and plays (Harry was “Puck” to Kathryn’s “Hermia” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and they continued to sing together in choirs throughout their lives.

Harry and Kathryn became avid patrons of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and Broadway, but nothing made Harry happier or prouder than listening to and supporting Kathryn in all of her professional singing activities.

Harry was a wonderful father who adored his two children, Matthias and Marin, and his life was motivated by his devotion to his family. He never missed one of his children’s performances and always attended with a camera in hand to photograph or record. He taught his kids to always fight for a better version of their schoolwork and writing, and he was willing to sit with them to help them edit as many drafts as it took, all the way through college and graduate school. Harry inspired by example to be as fit as one possibly could be, not encouraging the kids to pursue competitive sports per se, but to encourage a lifelong love of exercise and physical fitness, from the time the kids could walk.

Harry was a prolific artist. He had his camera in his backpack every day he commuted into New York for work. He excelled in many forms of photography: street, landscape, portrait, wedding, and art. In this capacity, Harry often served the Darien community, working on projects for his church, Darien High School’s Theatre 308, and for his wife’s voice studio, among others. He had a unique ability to make beautiful images captured in the perfect light. His family and friends are grateful to continue to see the world through Harry’s eyes and the lens of his camera in the vast archive of images he created.

Dining was always a cherished event, and photos of family and friends are most often around a table for a meal that Harry, a true Epicurean gourmet, had helped to prepare and lovingly pair with a perfect wine. Harry had a meticulous palate and he delighted in discovering new flavors that would inspire guests to exclaim “Wow! What’s in this?!” Always in search of what Harry referred to as an “Umami Bomb,” recent additions to his cooking repertoire include such items as Ssäm Sauce, Colatura di Alici, Gochujang, Sambal Oelek, Smoked Shoyu, ground sumac, Maple Cayenne Hot Sauce, pomegranate molasses, and flaked Dulse, and he recently upgraded the family mortar and pestle to a deeper model more suited to grinding myriad spices for his meat-rubs.

While Harry did not relish his daily commute to NYC from Darien, it afforded him countless hours to study and contemplate; he read voraciously, fiction and non. Harry did not dabble. He became an expert in everything he set his mind on: grilling, wine, photography/printmaking, videography, filmography/cinematography, color study, home sound and lighting systems, landscaping, backcountry camping equipment and technique (the best way to hang a bear bag!) to name just a few. He was a brilliant writer and poet, and he kept a folder on his phone called “Brainstorm” to keep track of all of his ideas when they occurred to him, some deeply thoughtful, some hilarious, so he could return to them — fragments of ideas that reveal his sensitivity to the world and humanity. Harry was even writing a screenplay called “Mind the Gap,” the premise of which, in his words, was “True Happiness is possible if you pursue your true identity and calling, rather than the empty promise of material success as society values it.”

Harry was a real Renaissance Man. In addition to his intellectual pursuits, supported by hours of quiet, focused study, Harry was also very physically active, and he loved being outdoors in all kinds of athletic endeavors. A road biker from childhood, for many years he biked 17 miles each way to work. He ran on his high school’s cross-country and track teams, and he continued to love running all his life. He skated (masterfully, after years of hockey playing) on ponds the moment they froze, and he relished a “snow-day” when the trains weren’t running to Manhattan and he could strap on the cross-country skis for a tour around Waveny Park or any local golf course.

Harry was always drawn to the mountains: backpack-camping and hiking in the remote wilderness for dozens of miles in the Rockies, the Alps, the Whites, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, and segments of the Appalachian Trail, and on- and off-piste Telemark skiing in places such as Tuckerman’s Ravine at Mt. Washington and the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia. He and his wife skied the American Birkebeiner, a cross-country ski marathon. They swam together every summer in Long Island Sound, off the Darien shoreline, jiggering their work schedules around high tide when open-water long-distance swimming was best. Harry’s one indoor athletic activity was ballroom dancing, which he and Kathryn had recently taken up and were frankly surprised they enjoyed so much!

Harry, a man of deep faith, was a member of Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, for 26 years, and served the church in many capacities: he taught Sunday School, spent the past 20 years as a tenor in the Chancel Choir, was on the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (Pastor Brandi Drake), attended Pastor Greg Doll’s 6:15 a.m. Bible study in NYC for over 8 years, photographed and videoed concerts, special services and children’s musicals, and most recently designed the newly remodeled chancel space in the sanctuary. He embraced and was embraced by his church community.

Family and friends captured Harry in adjectives: dear, sweet, warm, caring, kind, loving, steady, thoughtful, careful, honest, conscientious, trustworthy, intellectual, inquisitive, interested, erudite, pedantic (in a good way!), funny, insightful, creative, musical, artistic, generous, hospitable, spiritual, and faithful. Harry left a legacy of the constant pursuit of excellence and integrity. He lived an exemplary life: spectacular, but in the most unassuming way, ever willing to assume a supporting role so others could shine.

Harry is survived by his beloved and loving wife, Kathryn Amyotte, his adored children Matthias Amyotte (partner Mia D’Andrea), and Marin Amyotte Marka (husband Arthur Marka); his parents David Amyotte, Sr., and Dorothy Byrne; his siblings Michael Amyotte and Sarah Amyotte (wife Laurie Neff); a large extended family, and a multitude of friends. Harry’s brother, David Amyotte, Jr. (age 57) died less than three weeks prior to Harry, also by heart attack.

Visitation will be from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Friday, September 28 in the Noroton Presbyterian Church Sky Lobby. A Celebration of Harry’s Life will be on Saturday, September 29 at 11:00 a.m. in the Noroton Presbyterian Church Sanctuary. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to San Juan National Forest Stewardship, where a fund has been established in Harry’s memory for the maintenance and preservation of the Vallecito and Johnson Creek Trails, with the ultimate goal of replacing the bridge over Vallecito Creek which was washed away in 2006. His family believes that Harry would love for this tremendously beautiful place to be more accessible to the world. Via mail: National Forest Foundation, 390 Union Blvd, Ste 400, Denver, CO 80228-1556 — Note: San Juan National Forest Stewardship Fund in memory of Harry Amyotte. Online: https://www.nationalforests.org/give — In the “Promotional Code” field, enter “San Juan NF — Harry Amyotte.” To see some of Harry’s beautiful photos and videos, visit his websites: www.HarryAmyotte.com and www.vimeo.com/harryamyotte.