Charles “Lex” Mottl

One of the very first Conservation Easements ever received by the Preservation Trust was donated in 1984 by Charles and Virginia Mottl, protecting  17.6 acres on the southeast corner of Guthrie Cove and White Beach roads.

Charles and Virginia’s son, “Lex”, was a physician, builder, woodworker, traveler, musician, farmer, brewer, baker and “renaissance man,” as he was described in an obituary from the Carleton College alumni newsletter (below). Subscribing to his parents’ desire to preserve special island land, Lex bequeathed his 80 acres on Orcas Island, including old growth forest, 300 feet of shoreline, for permanent conservation. Today the Preservation Trust holds a Conservation Easement on Lex’s property, while the San Juan County Land Bank owns fee interest in the land.


The son of Carleton alums Charles (’39) and Virginia (’40) Mottl, was remembered as a renaissance man and a truly unique and accomplished person at a memorial service attended by Gary Sundem (’67), Liz Weikart Sundem (’68) and Mike Trucano (’67) and held beside the organic fruit and vegetable gardens that he lovingly tended and that epitomized his life-long efforts to live in harmony with our environment.

Lex was described by his colleagues at Group Health of Seattle as a very skilled surgeon who was able to stay on the cutting edge of his profession despite the fact that he worked on a half-time basis so that the would have time to pursue his other, more pastoral, interests. He was consumed by an intellectual curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, that filled his house with books and compelled him to design and build the solar system that lighted his house and powered his lathe and other wood-working tools as well as the watering system that fed his gardens. Lex was always on a journey. With his backpack and his guitar, he traveled through the world (not over it as he avoided airplanes at all costs) on foot and by train, automobile or freighter.

Lex was a compassionate doctor. Over his medical career, he tended to the Navajos of Arizona, the Aleuts of Alaska, the hill people of Appalachia, and the drug-burdened residents of the inner-city. He was a musician — a guitar player and pianist who, upon discovering a long-discarded bellows organ in an antique barn, brought it home, rebuilt it, and then taught himself how to play it. He grew food for himself and his friends in his vast gardens, he brewed his own beer, and he baked pies on the wood-burning stove that he had welded together in this shop – and against which he fell in the tragic accident that ended his life.

Lex was a minimalist, who never owned a television set and who was committed to giving back to this world as much or more than he took from it. His home was a two-room house that he designed and built himself from his own hand-hewn lumber. While building his house he lived in a tiny apartment that he erected on that back of his flatbed truck. He was a rugged individualist, yet he was devoted to his large circle of close friends. And he demanded from them the same intellectual and personal passions that he freely shared with them; but he never let anyone, including himself, take themselves too seriously.

Though Lex never married, he was remembered fondly by long-time companions, as well as friends. He was a devoted family man, sharing his acreage in the woods above Puget Sound with his parents and his brother’s family. He was a farmer, he was a wood turner, he was a healer, he was a builder, and he was a philosopher. But more than anything, Lex Mottl was an inspiration, a shining example of the beauty of unselfish intellectual pursuits, of passion directed to noble causes, of equanimity with nature, and of a life well lived.

Lex Mottl was such a Carl. Indeed!

from the Carleton alumni newsletter