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Tuesday, December 30, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Denice J. Hunt, 49, Architect With City

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Denice Johnson Hunt's fingerprints are all over this city.

As an architect with the city of Seattle, she helped plan the policies that shaped the city's waterfront, the Seattle Symphony's Benaroya Hall, Westlake Park and the proposed African American Heritage Museum.

"You can't look at this city and not see Denice because her fingerprints are all over it. That's the kind of immortality that architects have," said Marga Rose Hancock, executive vice president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Seattle.

Ms. Hunt, 49, died Christmas Day after a long battle with breast cancer.

As deputy chief of staff to Mayor Norm Rice, Ms. Hunt was known best for making people with different visions and ideas feel as if they were all on the same team, and she did it with grace, charm and common sense, her husband, John Hunt, said.

"She had an amazing knack for bringing people together, dispelling tensions and making things happen," he said.

Karen Ross, former director of development for the Port of Seattle, worked with Ms. Hunt on several projects, including the Bell Street Pier. She said Ms. Hunt was always an advocate for the citizens of Seattle.

"Development is a really hard game. It's money-driven, and it can be acrimonious. Denice really represented the citizens and their best interests," Ross said.

Ms. Hunt, who was born in Jamaica to a mother of Chinese descent and a father of African descent, was pleased to be named the first African-American woman president of any local AIA chapter, Hancock said.

Her resume was impressive. Her undergraduate degree was from Tufts University, her graduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She graduated from high school at 15.

She met her future husband, also an architect, in Boston when she was at MIT and he was at Harvard.

"She had an incredible personality and interesting things to say about almost any subject. And she had a very delicate, very graceful way about her," he said.

One of the things that defined Ms. Hunt for her husband was her ability of finding the simplest way to do something.

"I'd had this stupid little sports car for years, and I always bent down to work the lever so people could get in the back seat. The very first time she got into it, she just put her foot on the lever, punched it down, and it opened right up just the way it was supposed to because of course that's the way it was designed to be used," he said.

The Hunts moved to Seattle almost 20 years ago when Denice wanted to live on the West Coast. Although they didn't intend to stay, they fell in love with the city.

Their son Collin, 17, and daughter Julian, 15, were born here.

"I think she felt very satisfied with her career, but I know she would have wanted to get the kids graduated and through school and married," John Hunt said.

In addition to her work with the city, where she held numerous positions before becoming deputy chief of staff, Ms. Hunt also served two terms on the King County Landmarks Commission, two terms as a member of the national scholarship committee for the AIA as well as president of the AIA Seattle.

In her honor, the AIA Seattle has established the Denice Johnson Hunt Fellowship at the University of Washington College of Architecture and Urban Planning (Box 355726, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-5726) to support design and planning curriculums in kindergarten through high school. Memorials may be made to the fellowship fund or to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Ms. Hunt's survivors besides her husband and two children include her mother, Dalthel Ling of New York; and friends and colleagues in Seattle, Boston and Jamaica.

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Jan. 7 at the Church of the Epiphany, 38th Avenue and East Denny Way, Seattle.

Christine Clarridge's phone message number is 206-464-8983. Her e-mail address is: ccla-new@seatimes.com

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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