In Memoriam

Au Revoir, Glenda! We Salute a Portland Icon

The city pays tribute to the late, beloved Glenda Goldwater, who died this month.

By Eden Dawn and Fiona McCann September 21, 2020

Glenda Goldwater, during a 2014 photoshoot for Portland Monthly

Glenda Goldwater, our city’s stylish super patron of the arts and baseball-loving Hillsboro Hops fan, has died and left Portland a little paler from her absence. Born on October 17, 1934, Goldwater was a career librarian, a profession that led her to one of her life's great loves: France. After a stint there as a military librarian for the US Army in 1961, she became a professed Francophile, an amour that she inked on her own skin with a number of tattoos that she began collecting at age 78. She moved to Portland in 2001 after the death of her psychiatrist husband, when she retired from being a public librarian in San Francisco. Portland fell hard for Goldwater, known for her trademark thick-rimmed eyeglasses, eruption of white hair, fierce politics, and unwavering support of the local arts scene. It's hard to believe we won't share another glass of red French wine with the woman who livened up so many openings and events. Here, some of her ardent admirers say their farewells.


Ms. Glenda Goldwater was an art lover and patron whose easily recognizable bold and iconic style graced Portland’s Art Community. She had an insatiable desire and curiosity to learn about people and culture. We went everywhere together: art shows, plays, dinners, operas, movies and dance performances. We took road trips, grabbed drinks at dive bars, danced at charity events, celebrated holidays, educated each other on history and politics, celebrated life, debated the changes of the world, spoke on the phone every day during the pandemic, and cherished each other's company. My beloved Glenda; I will cherish all the fond memories we had together as I grow old. I miss you already; I love you GG!

Kate O'Neil,  best friend


A lot of folks think fashion is exclusively a young person’s game. Glenda Goldwater was proof that isn’t true. I had a cool crush on her long before I got a mutual friend to arrange a dinner date for us to go on. I’d look at her outfit from across the room at a gallery, noting her fabulous glasses, or what statement necklace she had on. I was thrilled to see her get acknowledged by the Portland fashion world when Alexa Stark released a lookbook with Glenda as her muse and Wildfang released a campaign photo of her in a plaid suit, with a T-shirt that said “Flawless” surrounded by a raucous house party. She reminded me that, although I am in an industry that rewards youth, that does not mean you have to go silently into the good night. I will wear my bold lips and big jewelry, and whatever the hell else I want for as long as I want. And I will do it thanks to Glenda.

Eden Dawn, style editor, Portland Monthly


Glenda Goldwater was a true inspiration and a massive supporter of the Portland art scene. Glenda attended exhibitions at PICA, Portland Art Museum, Disjecta, Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft, and many more. In 2013 Glenda jumpstarted my line by modeling my second collection photographed by Mikola Accuardi (starting the advanced model trend in my opinion). On set Glenda told us stories of when she was stationed in France as a military librarian. She hated the Nazis and had multiple tattoos. Glenda was kind of my hero. I am so sad to know that she has passed, but her memory and courage will live on forever.

Alexa Stark,  fashion designer

I’m going to miss Glenda Goldwater. I will miss feeling so special because she knew my name and came to my shows and cheered me on. I’m going to miss seeing her on the bus and sitting with her at lectures or drinking red French wine with her at gallery openings. Ubiquitous in the arts scene she became locally famous for being an iconic elder with style and an impressive art collection. If you’ve had the pleasure of being in her home you’d notice that she lived with and sometimes on her unique hoard of contemporary art. I coveted a series of original Gay Liberation and SF AIDS awareness campaign posters in her bathroom. I was not surprised to witness every square inch of her walls mounted with many PNW artists I, too, admired. She had a stack of books on her bed the length and height of her body and was surrounded by bookshelves overflowing with monographs. I aspire to this level of fascination and abundance that befits a career librarian. I, too, wish to cuddle with my favorite stories and authors nightly.

I encourage us all to show up for each other with the panache and grace Glenda modeled. I give you permission like Glenda gave me permission to love what you love and fight for it. I want us all to play something radical and French while we raise a glass of red wine in her memory. 
I imagine she will show up to heaven quite tipsy. 
Kaj-anne Pepper / Pepper Pepper, performance artist and dance maker. 
The text popped up on my phone late Tuesday afternoon from a colleague at the Portland Art Museum. Did you hear? Glenda Goldwater. 2020 won’t let up. Glenda strolled the galleries of the museum with true grace and style. In a space filled with interesting things across time and place, she was even more interesting! If you ask any staff person, from any department, they will surely have a Glenda story to share (and maybe even a T-shirt with her face emblazoned on it that were made for our 2016 Andy Warhol exhibition). For me, she was a fixture and champion of the museum’s Artist Talks series. Now over a decade old, the (pre-pandemic) monthly series welcomed Portland-based artists from every nook and cranny of our community (visual artists, dancers, fashion designers, writers, filmmakers) to select a work on view and to riff/reflect on it for an hour. It’s a sweet little program that takes place in front of artworks, and is small and intimate, often just a dozen people or so seated in a circle. If ever there was a regular, it was Glenda. She came all the time. Most artists she knew, some she did not. She didn’t necessarily ask a lot of questions or engage in banter, but she always showed up and stayed present. As I write this, I regret that we never convinced her to give a talk. I asked once, and she politely shrugged me off. Her aloof warmth, her low-key celebrity, her supreme artistry, and magical mystery will be deeply missed. Thank you, Glenda.  

Stephanie Parrish, director of Learning & Community Partnerships, Portland Art Museum


Glenda knew how to party. And how to live. The eidos of savoir-faire. A singular figure. Exciting all who saw her. “Oh, I hope I look like you when I am your age,” admirers all praised.“Oh, but if only you could at least make an effort now.” The shared laughter. Probing questions.  Political conversations. Point and counterpoint, laughter, sculpture, art, dance. Always up for an invitation to a performance, Glenda watched Viva dance at Mary’s. Ever ready for a glass of wine. French, of course. Let us all raise our glasses, “To Glenda!”

Lake James H. Perriguey, attorney, Law Works LLC 

Glenda’s Last Tattoo (Tristan C. Anderson - Chance) from Pilgrim Films on Vimeo.

A short documentary made as part of the #SOUNDTRACKS project for Tristan C. Anderson's new album.

Glenda Goldwater's friends and family would like to invite the city that loved her to attend Goldwater's Memorial Service, to be held virtually by her church, the First Unitarian Church, via Zoom on Sunday, September 27, at 2 pm. For details regarding the memorial service and zoom invite please visit the church's website

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