Bethesda Historical Society

January 23, 2024 - Bethesda's 153rd birthday!

Bill Offutt, historian of Bethesda

Bethesda Historical Society mourns the passing of our dear friend Bill Offutt

William McEnery Offutt

April 28, 1931- December 31, 2022

Bill Offutt died in the early morning of December 31, 2022 at the age of 91. He was born on April 28, 1931 to William McEnery Offutt and Lillian Gloyd Offutt and grew up in Montgomery County. He lost his father to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever when he was seven, and was raised by a single mother in Bethesda, through the end of the Depression and World War II.

He attended Our Lady of Lourdes parish school and then graduated from St. John’s College High School in 1949. He worked himself through Montgomery Junior College and the University of Maryland, graduating in 1954. He met his wife-to-be Eda Barthel Schrader of Bethesda in 1948, and they married on September 5, 1953, a marriage which continued for more than 69 years until death did they part. They lived in the same Bethesda house since 1957 where they raised their three children.

In 1955, he became a teacher in History/Social Studies and English for Montgomery County Public Schools. He loved teaching in junior high and high schools throughout the county, some of which no longer exist—Leland, Argyle, Northwood, retiring from Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in 1989. Over his more than 34 year career, which also included six years developing curriculum, he taught thousands of Montgomery County’s children.

He also coached Catholic Youth Organization sports for two decades at Our Lady of Lourdes, affecting the lives of hundreds more. He loved sports, and followed Washington’s baseball and football teams, often to heartbreaking results but occasionally to championships. He worked for Lourdes, reaching more through religious education, and as a lector, eucharistic minister, and usher until recent months.

In his retirement, he researched and wrote Bethesda: A Social History. He did more than 200 oral history interviews over six years to complete his letter of love to his hometown. Unable to find a publisher for the original manuscript of more than 1000 pages, he self-published the work in 1995, and sold more than 7,000 copies in what became three editions. It has become the primary resource for the history of Bethesda.

This achievement led to a speaking career through Montgomery History (formerly Montgomery County Historical Society) on local history topics. He gave more than 200 talks to various groups as well as to school children, including his grandkids. In 2020, he received the Montgomery County Award for Historic Preservation, for his lifetime achievement for chronicling and teaching the history of Bethesda and Chevy Chase for almost 70 years.

He also wrote poems, historical novels, short stories, and semi-autobiographical memoirs of growing up during World War II. On a single teacher’s salary, he put his three kids through college without debt, and watched his four grandchildren grow up.

He was funny, he was cranky, he read much and knew more, and he lived mostly in good health until his death.

He loved his three children and four grandchildren, but most of all, he loved his wife and the life they built together in Bethesda over seven decades. He was a good and decent man, and he will be greatly missed.

He was the beloved husband of Eda Schrader Offutt of 69 years; loving father of William M. Offutt Jr. (Nancy Reagin) of Montclair, NJ, Katherine Offutt (Michael Morton) of Vienna, VA and Caroline Offutt (Andrew Gallagher) of Reston, VA; cherished grandfather of Mary Offutt-Reagin (Roman Khrakun), Seth Offutt-Reagin, Shannon Gallagher and Willow Gallagher.

A funeral mass will be held on January 9, 2023 at 10 am with visitation beginning at 9 am at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 7500 Pearl St, Bethesda, MD 20814. Interment at Rock Creek Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please make memorial contributions to or a charity of your choice.

Bill Offutt: A Conversation with the Bethesda Historical Society

Bill Offutt, local historian and author of “Bethesda: A Social History” remembers Bethesda from the 1940s to the present day.

A 19-minute video from Montgomery Municipal Cable.

Lifetime Achievement Award to Bethesda's Bill Offutt

Play Video

Congratulations to Bethesda historian and lifelong resident Bill Offutt who was presented Montgomery Preservation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.

A 13-minute video from Montgomery Preservation starting at 54:32.