William “Bill” Offutt, who spent more than three decades as a teacher for the Montgomery County Public School system and who wrote a book on the history of Bethesda, died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 91.
Offutt, a native of the county, grew up in Bethesda and taught history/social studies and English for MCPS for about 34 years before retiring from Bethesda Chevy-Chase High school in 1989. He also spent six years within his teaching career developing curriculum.
His support of children included 20 years as a coach for Catholic Youth Organization sports at Our Lady of Lourdes.
Offutt’s daughter, Katherine “Kate” Offutt said her father instilled in her and her siblings, Caroline and William “Bill” Jr., the belief that they could become anything they wanted.
“When I was in third grade, they said fourth-graders could ride their bikes to school. … I was not happy, and he said ‘Well, go talk to the principal’ and he pushed me, and I did and then third-graders could ride their bikes.”
His legacy also lies in the pages of his book, Bethesda: A Social History, from 1995. Offutt sold more than 7,000 copies in three editions and had a speaking career through the nonprofit Montgomery History.
According to Wendy Kaufman, president of the Bethesda Historical Society, Offutt helped set the foundation when the organization started in 2019.
“In a sense, we started from scratch because we’re just friends and neighbors who thought, ‘Hey, let’s learn Bethesda history and work to preserve it,’” she said. “Most of us found out about Bill Offutt’s book; we didn’t even really know about it, and it was like, ‘Wow, here’s this resource.’ As we did more of our work, learning Bethesda history, documenting it and collecting memorabilia, it was fun when we would kind of see things in person, like a building or yearbook or something, that really meshed with what Bill was saying about it in his book.”
According to his daughters, he worked tirelessly on completing the book.
“We were all so proud of what he did and just the sheer amount of people he interviewed and the determination to get this done,” Caroline said. “When most people retire, they just go play golf or whatever. They retire. But it wasn’t a retirement. [This] was a second career.”
In 2020, Offutt received the Montgomery County Award for Historic Preservation for his lifetime achievement chronicling and teaching the history of Bethesda and Chevy Chase.
Kate and Caroline said that, although their father couldn’t be characterized as affectionate, he always did things to show he cared.
“He just showed how much he loved us,” Caroline said. “He would have done anything for us. I worked downtown, near the White House one summer during college. … He would go down to Tenleytown and sit there and wait till I came up on the Metro and drive me home. He didn’t have to do that— I could have taken a bus or whatever—things like that.”
As each of his children, and even Caroline’s oldest daughter, went off to college, he would send them weekly letters and packages.
According to his daughters, Offutt was also a big sports fan, especially baseball, and followed the Nationals and Commanders.
“He’d pack up the station wagon and take the whole neighborhood to the game for $2 a piece,” Kate said. “That’s a really fond memory. Caroline and I, one of the last things we got to take him to was a baseball game.”
A funeral mass was held Jan. 9 at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
In addition to his children, Offutt is survived by his wife of over 69 years, Eda, whom he met in 1948 and married in 1953. They lived in the same Bethesda house since 1957, where they raised their children.
Offutt also leaves behind four grandchildren: Mary Offutt-Reagin, Seth Offutt-Reagin, Shannon Gallagher and Willow Gallagher.