Dr. Ellen Lynn Chapman, adventurer, outdoor educator, musician, master gardener, horsewoman, social justice advocate, mother of three and friend to many, died unexpectedly in her sleep on May 26, 2017, in her cabin in the Methow Valley.
Lynn was born on June 17, 1953, in Columbia, Missouri, to the late Reverend William Dewson Chapman and the late Emily Borie Chapman (nee Mudd, later Mitchell). Before settling in Seattle, she lived in Sykeston, Missouri, Brunswick, Maine, Philadelphia, Seoul, South Korea, Concord and Amherst, Massachusetts, Whitton Pond, New Hampshire, Bennington, Vermont and Lander, Wyoming.
After graduating from Concord Academy and attending Bennington College, she graduated with high honors in Botany from the University of Massachusetts. After a stint as a NOLS instructor, she graduated from Pennsylvania Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel) completing her residency at the University of Washington in family medicine. She ultimately settled in Seattle where she has lived since 1979, leaving temporarily for medical school and in Woodland and Sacramento, California, to support her husband’s career. Lynn and now her family also have deep roots in the Methow Valley, where she has owned property since 1980.
While most of us knew Lynn as a family medicine doctor (UW resident, Group Health, Woodland Clinic and private practice) who cared deeply about her patients, she had many other jobs and interests. She worked as an outdoor instructor at the National Outdoor Leadership School (where she met her husband), as a teacher and mentor to delinquent youth, as a waitress and as a longshoreman. She loved music (she was a magnificent flautist and could play many instruments). She planted a garden every year since she was 20. She launched craft projects one after the other. She was a world traveler. She loved dogs. Her love of the outdoors was reflected by her passion for hiking, mountaineering, biking, skiing and horses.
Lynn’s passion for adventure and her love and commitment to service distinguished her. Examples are numerous and varied — hitchhiking across the country without her parents’ knowledge as a teenager; dropping out of college to teach mountaineering; being followed by a polar bear on a Greenland scientific mission; taking her children on deep back country adventures since they were in diapers; serving as the expedition doctor in the Andes and Amazon; wandering with Hadzabe hunter gatherers in Tanzania; practicing medicine in war-torn Nicaragua; braving death threats to provide access to abortion; traveling throughout the world, often in difficult conditions, and often with children in tow. She was the inspiration for others to chase their own dreams.
Lynn’s life was too short. But it was full. It brought joy to so many. Lynn didn’t know a stranger. Her devotion to friends and the newly acquainted had no match.
But her grandest adventure of all was raising her three wonderful children, now capable young adults, who she loved deeply. We all see her sense of adventure, her dedication to service and her love reflected in them.
Lynn is survived by husband, Randy Cerf, her children, Will (25), Mathew (24) and Fiona (21), her siblings Ted Chapman, Welles Chapman, Beth London and Nora Mitchell, along with numerous nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts, grandnieces and nephews and an enormous group of devoted friends across the globe who love her deeply.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on June 24 at the Prospect Congregational Church followed by a reception nearby at her home. Smaller memorials will be held at her Winthrop property at 2 p.m. on June 26 and in Lander, Wyoming, on Oct. 7. In lieu of flowers please send any gifts in Lynn’s memory to Room One (social services in the Methow Valley, www.roomone.org), the Methow Valley Conservancy (www.methowconservancy.org) or Planned Parenthood.