Luette (Lutie) G. Semmes died peacefully at Buckingham’s Choice in Adamstown, MD on November 16, 2023 at the age of 96. Before moving to Buckingham’s Choice she was a long-time resident of Potomac, MD. Lutie was a beautiful, brilliant, unassuming woman whose unflagging energy and joy for life enriched all around her.
Lutie was born in Toledo, Ohio on June 13, 1927 to Thomas Goodbody and Luette Spitzer Goodbody. Lutie’s mother, who already had five sons aged 13 to 22 years, was delighted to give birth to her first daughter. When Lutie was five, the family moved to the countryside along the Maumee River near Perrysburg Ohio, where Lutie had an idyllic childhood. It was during this time that she developed traits which would guide her through her life: strong friendships, generosity, a love of reading and learning, as well as a commitment to helping others and her community. In 1942, while still in high school, Lutie created the song and slogan “Be a Bond, Buy a Bond” to help the war effort. She was featured in Look magazine for that work.
She attended Vassar College in 1944. While at Vassar, on a blind date in late 1944, she met Harry Semmes and her life changed forever. Harry was eight years older and a recently returned wounded and decorated veteran of WWII’s Pacific Campaign, who had restarted his Dartmouth College studies. Lutie and Harry were married at the Goodbody family estate on June 23, 1948.
Lutie moved to join Harry in Washington, DC and the couple rented an apartment near Dupont Circle. In 1950 they had their first son Harry (who later received the nickname Turko which stuck with him for life). After their second son Guy was born in 1952, they moved to the Semmes family farm in Potomac, MD and, with the help of a GI loan, built the house of their dreams. They named the house “Lookaway” because you could see Virginia … over rolling hills, forests, and the Potomac River. They had two more children, Thomas in 1954 and Luette in 1957. The Semmes farm ( aka “Great Elm”) was a sprawling estate of five families, four generations, horses, cattle, pigs, and a pool and tennis court. It was a great place to raise children. In spite of her allergies, Lutie soon embraced Harry’s passion — horseback riding. Whether it was fox hunting, steeplechase races, or the annual Great Elm Farm 3-Day event, Lutie was all in.
Às her family grew and her roots to the community deepened, Lutie began what would be a lifelong commitment of service to others. Shortly after having her first child, she worked for a senator at the Capitol. The greater Semmes family were original founders of the Saint Francis Episcopal Church in Potomac. Lutie started an annual house tour to raise funds for the church and was a driving force in establishing its Sunday School. She also helped start the Head Start program for Potomac. She helped the residents of Tobytown, a rural Black community, gain ownership and infrastructure support from the county. She taught at the Kingsbury Center for children with reading disabilities. Through the Episcopal Church, she connected with several Black churches in downtown DC and worked with them on several of the civil rights demonstrations on the National Mall. She volunteered at the White House answering letters for several Democratic Presidents, including Bill Clinton. She helped to found the Garden Club of Potomac. She also had a love for birds which grew into a regular commitment at sunrise to band birds in the Glen and report her findings to Fish and Wildlife.
One of her most satisfying achievements was the establishment of a local newspaper. In 1957, a neighbor asked her to help establish the Potomac Almanac newsletter. This version of the Almanac would be active for years but eventually stopped publishing in the late 1960s. When Lutie’s nest was empty, she relaunched the Almanac, turning it into an acclaimed bi-weekly newspaper with 13 employees and an office in downtown Potomac. (The Potomac Almanac still publishes approximately monthly at www.PotomacAlmanac.com and print copies can be picked up at the Semmes Building.)
In 2002, Lutie and Harry left Potomac to move to the Buckingham’s Choice retirement community in Adamstown, MD. While there she remained as busy as usual. She worked to set up bluebird boxes and restore habitat. Along with others she established an annual auction to raise money for a local firehouse and provide the staff with furniture bargains. Always a gardener, she worked throughout the grounds planting and weeding. She took up pottery and installed her own kiln in her house. Her knitting needles were clicking continuously. With her daughter-in-law Joyce she became an avid Nationals fan. After Harry began to show signs of Alzheimer’s, she took care of him until his death in 2014 with patience and the humor which had served her so well.
Lutie’s warm and generous persona provided a role model for the lives of countless people and she will be greatly missed. She is survived by her four children, seven grandchildren and six great grandchildren (and counting).
A service will be held at Saint Francis Church in Potomac on Dec. 9, 2023 at 2 p.m. with a reception afterwards. In lieu of flowers, Lutie asked that people make a donation to Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland at habitatmm.org.