- About Us
Uta Gerhild Roth
Uta Gerhild Roth (nee Goetz), born in 1939, was a young girl in post-war West Berlin. She never forgot the kindness of U.S. GIs who saved her infected foot with antibiotics, and gave her chocolate and oranges at a time when food was in short supply.
Uta loved the wind in her hair as she pedaled her bicycle through the streets of Berlin, the bright sour taste of lemon wedges and green apples, and her mother’s pickled pumpkin. She especially loved fashion, design, and knitting.
She was one of three daughters of Alois Goetz, who ran a small business, and Katharine Elise Schulz, whom Uta remembered for her excellent cooking, insistence on properly tailored clothing, and knowledge of medicinal herbs.
Via the American Field Service, Uta was an exchange student in 1956 in Mankato, Minnesota. Uta’s family in Berlin also hosted an American student, Audrey Hansen (now Langworthy).
Uta attended a school for interpreters in Berlin, and studied Spanish and English while working as an usher at a local movie theater. The Hansen family later sponsored Uta’s move to the United States. Celebrating her 21st birthday on the U.S.S. United States, Uta immigrated to the U.S. in 1960. She lived in The Webster, a rooming house for young women in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, and the Hansens helped arrange a job for her at J.C. Penney.
Uta soon became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and was rightly proud of her fluent unaccented English.
For 18 years, she was married to John Roth, moving with him to Maryland, California, and, eventually, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Uta, who had worked as a secretary in a patent law firm in Berkeley, joined the College of Law at the University of Utah, where she worked for 28 years, from 1979 to 2007. During this time, she was executive assistant to Deans Lee Teitelbaum, Scott Matheson Jr. and Hiram Chodosh. Studying evenings and weekends, Uta earned paralegal training at Westminster College. She also worked for a time in the Department of Fine Arts, and was a docent at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Both the College of Law and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts are featured in one of Uta’s ‘T-shirt’ quilts.
Throughout her life, Uta loved art and pursued crafts with passion. She had a keen eye for color and pattern. She first learned to love knitting and sewing as a child in Berlin. Already an accomplished seamstress when she immigrated, Uta sewed her own wedding dress. She loved to weave, knit and sew stunning clothing and eye-catching home goods for her family.
In Berkeley and in Salt Lake City, Uta expanded her repertoire of crafts, which grew to include needlepoint, shibori, basketry, silk painting, tole painting, weaving, quilting, stained glass, jewelry and even mobiles. She served as President of the Weavers Guild and taught Scandinavian knitting and other fiber arts through the University of Utah’s Department of Continuing Education.
She was absolutely driven as an artist, working day and night to create dozens of dazzling quilts, woven tapestries, stained glass panels, exotic pillowcases, baskets, and complex knitted scarves, socks and sweaters. She fiercely guarded her personal time and creative space.
In the hospital, she was impatient to get home to her loom, where a series of towels and table runners was emerging. “I need to get home,” she told her children. “I have a lot to do.”
Her meticulously organized home was a comforting and constant conversation of colors and patterns. Although she surrounded herself with inspiring crafts from around the world, Scandinavian aesthetics seemed closest to her heart. Uta was thorough in everything she did, both in her work and her crafts, muttering “schmudlich” under her breath when encountering a sloppy job.
Despite modest means, she took her children on a memorable backpacking trip through Europe when they were teenagers. She traveled with her daughter to Iceland, Egypt (where Uta tried scuba diving and rode a camel around the pyramids), Japan and Switzerland, and toured British Columbia with her son.
A voracious reader, Uta studied the history of the world. She loved curling up with a good book or three, a cup of tea by her side, in her beloved red leather armchair (a gift of the College of Law), as she enjoyed German cookies or Jarlsberg on toast. She loved mysteries and Japanese samurai movies, and had a sly understated sense of humor. She named her hospital bed Oscar, and a medical gadget by her bedside was R2D2.
Uta suffered from complications of atherosclerosis, dying peacefully on Dec. 5 at the University of Utah Hospital, with her children by her side. In addition to her two children, Katherine Roth Kono, of Larchmont, NY, and Fritz Roth, of Toronto, Canada, Uta is survived by her grandsons Alexander Yuji and John Kenji Kono and Jasper, Quinlan, Kienan and Aidan Roth, and by step-grandsons Lucas and Calen Panhuyzen, of Toronto.
Uta appreciated the friendship of her former husband John Roth and his wife Shery Roth, of Davis, California, and the kindness of their extended family in Salt Lake City, including Karissa, Chris, and Linda Howard, and Cole Harris of Campbell, California. Uta was beloved by the family of her son-in-law, Tsutomu Kono, in Osaka, Japan, and corresponded regularly with her son’s in-laws in Maine and Toronto.
For many years she looked forward each week to a German-style kaffeeklatsch with several close friends. And Uta cherished her friends Forrest Childs and Verla Younker, who provided encouragement in her final weeks, when she needed it most.
Uta succeeded in living life on her own terms. Outside her tight circle of friends, family and fellow craftspeople, she preferred the company of her own, vibrant, quilts.
Her work and life will be remembered at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Friday, Dec. 29, from 1 to 4 p.m. Also see www.utarothmemorial.net.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Uta's name to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.