Dr. Scott Norquist | Passages

Dr. Scott Norquist died April 27, 2023, in a memory care facility in Seattle, kept comfortable by several of the medications he had administered to ease the suffering of countless others during his 35 year career as an anesthesiologist. He was 71 and had Lewy Body Dementia (LBD).

He was a compassionate physician, an adventurer and athlete, an environmentalist and steward of the land, a King County Big Brother, a husband who deeply loved his wife Karen for 36 years, and a jokester who developed tight bonds with the many friends he leaves behind. An extrovert with a genuine interest in others, Scott attracted people to him. They stuck around because Scott was always fun. He was honest and loyal and had a magic aura that inspired people to be their best selves.

Scott Wallace Norquist was born on Christmas Eve 1951 at Harborview Hospital in Seattle, to Ann (Mitchell) Norquist from South Dakota and Stanley R. Norquist from Minnesota, during Stan’s medical internship. Because Ann was ill and needed a quiet private room, the staff made the daring decision to allow Baby Scott to stay with his Mom – thus becoming the first “rooming in” baby at the county hospital.

Before his first birthday, Scott’s family moved to Longview, Washington, where he spent a happy childhood within a loving and fun-loving family. He, his siblings (Bruce, Todd, and Amy), and his lifelong neighborhood friends had nonstop adventures on the banks of Lake Sacajawea, on the Toutle River, and at White Pass.

After graduating from R.A. Long High School in 1970, Scott earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Washington State University in 1974 and a medical degree from Emory University in 1979. Anesthesia residency at Virginia Mason Hospital brought him back to the Seattle area, where he worked most of his life.

Scott met Karen Hays in 1986. They married in Scotland in 1989, the land of their clan ancestors. Karen, a nurse-midwife with a global health career focus, brought Scott along on medical trips, where he assisted patients in need of anesthesia. He worked alongside gifted healthcare providers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who do so much with very few resources. Scott often trained local doctors and nurses on these trips, but always said he learned more than he taught.

Although Scott’s career home was in Seattle, his “heart” home was on Orcas Island from 1989 onward. After camping on their property near Olga for 4 years, he and Karen built a house and spent as much time there, through all seasons, as their off-call and in-country schedules would allow.

Scott worked nonstop on the house, the gravel road, and the land, especially his rock gardens and his winding trail through the forest to the beach, so much so that his houseguests nicknamed the island “ChOrcas”. His playful laughter, boundless energy, and pothole-filling expertise will be noticeably missed in the years to come by his many Orcas friends.

Scott was a naturally gifted athlete. He excelled at everything he did: bicycling, running, skiing, basketball, swimming, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, motorcycling, ping pong, tennis, and golf. He went outside every day, commuting everywhere by bicycle so he wouldn’t miss out on exercise and natural light. Scott was competitive only with himself – an annual goal was cycling up the Mt. Constitution road in the number of minutes that matched his age.

Scott’s intellectual brilliance, athleticism, and affectionate fun-loving personality persevered as long as possible after his dementia diagnosis in 2015. But nearly 70 years after his birth there, he re-entered Harborview Hospital as a patient of the Memory and Brain Wellness Center, knowing that their care could only be palliative.

An anti-inflammatory diet, rigorous exercise, brain-optimizing supplements, and loving care by his wife and friends helped Scott achieve eight fun, adventurous years living with LBD. His decline was nonetheless relentless, which accelerated after a mild case of Covid six months before his death.

As was his wish, no memorial service will occur.

Instead, allow Scott to inspire you to spend time outside learning about and appreciating nature. Tell someone something you admire about them. Get your power of attorney documents notarized. Eat (a little) popcorn and Cherry Garcia ice cream. Help a family caregiver in a substantive way (and pay caregivers a living wage). Donate to Ocean’s Initiative or another organization dedicated to rehabilitating the Salish Sea. And laugh every day, no matter what.