Obituary of Robert Houk
Dr. Robert Louis Houk, 81, passed away after a brief illness on December 6, 2018. Bob was born June 1, 1937 to Theodore W. and Helen E. (Gellermann) Houk.
He attended Roosevelt High School (Class of ‘55), and the University of Washington Medical School. In 1963, Bob joined the U.S. Air Force, and served for two years as a Flight Medical Officer. In 1966, he began a general medical practice, including volunteering at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, San Francisco in the “Summer of Love.” In 1972, he completed a psychiatric residency at the University of Washington.
“Dr. Bob,” as he was known to thousands of providers and patients, was a pioneer of humanistic mental health care, a discipline that recognizes clients primarily as people who are active and essential participants in their own recovery. While still in medical school, he conducted a study of custodial versus humanistic attitudes among mental hospital attendants that resulted in the adoption of a screening test for prospective attendants in State hospitals, and a presentation to the American Psychiatric Association National Convention.
For 40 years, Bob practiced at Seattle Mental Health. He worked to develop humanistic treatment models, including day treatment communities and staff assistance with navigating daily life challenges. Because of these innovations, in his first four years at Seattle Medical Health, client re-hospitalization and jail rates dropped by 90%, even as medication dosages were lowered. Bob created many other specialty programs, including those for children, elderly adults, developmentally delayed people, and deaf clients.
Later in his career, Bob also worked with Christian Counseling Service (multidenominational) in Tacoma, and provided consultations to Native American Tribal Counseling Clinics, helping them to strengthen and restore Native American families on the Olympic peninsula. His work helped the Puyallup Tribe develop the Kwawachee Counseling Center, and the Squaxin Island Tribe and the Skokomish Tribe of Indians to develop counseling centers.
Bob had a life-long love of the Washington wilderness. He was a master kayaker and canoeist, who made the first reported kayak descent of the Salmon “River of No Return.” He spent many happy summers constructing fiberglass “Chinook” kayaks and taking them out on every waterway in the state. As a Mountaineer, Bob summited, snow-camped and skied Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Pilchuck, and many others.
In his 50s, Bob took up high-wind windsurfing on the Columbia River Gorge, Baja, the Sea of Cortez, the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela, and the Hawaiian Islands. Some of his happiest times were in passing on his skills and in sharing adventures with his family on camping trips and river expeditions.
He was also a scholar of religious history, art, and archaeology. Bob travelled extensively to Assisi, Rome and Florence, Italy, the Holy Land, including the Sea of Galilee, Greece, Crete, Central Mexico, Egypt, and to Mount Moses on the Sinai Peninsula. He was a founding member of the Sand Point Community United Methodist Church, and loved sharing his knowledge of real historic places of the Bible as co-leader of the Church’s Men’s Bible Study Fellowship group.
Bob Houk is remembered with love by his two children, Benjamin N. Houk (Lauri Michelle) and
AnnaLisa Gellermann (Jeff) from his first marriage to Marilyn (Haugen) Sundin; his two stepsons, Erryn Edrington (Debbie) and Logan Edrington (Kristi) from his second marriage to Anita Houk, his former wife and good friend; his sister, Helene Fowler and her family; his sister-in-law, Carol Houk and her family; many loving grand and great-grandchildren; and many friends. A gentle spirit and true mystic, he will be missed!
A memorial service to celebrate Bob’s life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at Sand Point Community United Methodist Church, 4710 NE 70th Street, Seattle, WA 98115. A reception will follow the service. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to your favorite charity.