Peter Sanborn Walch, 73: Longtime teacher, loved art, food and poker

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PORTLAND — Peter Sanborn Walch,73, died May 3, in Portland.

He was born in Portland and spent a blissful childhood with his parents, J. Weston Walch and Ruth D. Walch, and his sister, Carolyn Walch Slayman. They spent summers berry-picking on the family’s farm in Richmond Corner.

He attended King Middle School and Deering High School in Portland. He graduated from Swarthmore College and then earned a doctorate in art history from Princeton University in 1967. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study the paintings of Angelica Kaufman in England.

Teaching was one of many passions for Walch. He taught art history at Pomona, Vassar, Yale, and the University of New Mexico. He became the director of the UNM Art Museum and spent 14 happy years mounting exhibitions. His shows were popular, and he was proud of bringing the public to the museum.

Other passions included cars and food. He was an excellent cook and a connoisseur of wine. And the faster and sleeker the car, the better, although his Ford pickup was a favorite for transporting art to the museum and dogs to the mountains.

After Walch retired from the university, he and his wife and two dogs moved permanently to Portland and Little Diamond Island. He served as chairman of the board of what is now known as Walch Education, the family’s publishing business, and as unofficial mayor of Little Diamond Island, usually meeting the ferry with lemonade, fresh garden kale and island news.

Poker was also important. It gave him a way to channel his mathematical skills, his memory, and his affection for risk-taking. 

He was a man of keen intelligence, insatiable curiosity, an enormous sense of the joy of life, a democratic nature, and irresistible charm.

He is survived by his wife, Linda Tyler; children, Max Walch and Abigail Laskawy; grandchildren, Daniel and Owen Walch and Violet and Gwen Laskawy; stepchildren, Anna Tyler and Elizabeth Stone; sister, Carolyn Slayman; nephew, Andrew Slayman; niece, Rachel Platonov; and many friends and colleagues.

Memorial donations are not encouraged, although he would have appreciated that any go to either, Friends of Casco Bay in Portland or to New Mexico Animal Friends in Albuquerque. He also would have appreciated that those who knew him remember him by eating good food, drinking good wine and playing good poker.