Remembering Peter Wormser

Peter Wormser — a longtime Westporter and award-winning architect who valued the intersection of innovative design, community consciousness, and environmental sustainability — died last night, after battling leukemia. He was 69 years old.

Peter was 32 when he and colleague William Fellows won a nationwide design competition to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Manhattan’s Water Street. The memorial boasts a plain wall of glass brick, etched with excerpts of letters written from Vietnam — mostly from men and women in combat to friends and family at home — as well as political speeches and news dispatches.

One view of the New York Vietnam Memorial …

The writing on the wall inspired a book and a documentary film, both called Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam. Announcing the winning award, Mayor Ed Koch praised its design: ”What I like is its simplicity, and the fact that what will appear on the wall will be the comments of those who suffered. These comments will be a constant reminder of how much we owe the dead and how much we owe the living.”

Since its completion in 1985, Peter maintained a diverse architectural practice. His projects included multi-family housing developments in Manhattan and the Bronx, custom homes in Connecticut, ranches in California, and most recently the design of a new sustainable “green” town in Colorado.

Additionally he designed offices for the Ms. Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, MTV and Miramax, among others, as well as the Restoration Hardware flagship store in Manhattan, Furniture Row stores in the Southwest, and restaurants on both coasts.

… and a close-up.

A project close to his heart speaks to his love of community in Westport, where he lived for 2 decades with his wife of 40 years, Liz Milwe. Tim’s Kitchen at Wakeman Town Farm is a community gathering spot, named after their son who died in 2016.

Peter grew up in Stamford. He graduated from Pomfret School, and earned a BS in environmental science at Pitzer College, where he met his wife. After she graduated they moved to New York, and raised 3 children.

Later,  Peter received an MA in architecture from Columbia University. He lived in NoHo for decades, where he designed the Children’s Museum of the Arts on Lafayette Street.

Peter was also a painter. At night he jogged around Washington Square Park, often returning to their loft with a fellow runner he had invited over for pasta primavera.

Peter Wormser

Peter cared deeply for the people around him. On summer weekends especially, he enjoyed spending long, delicious evenings with family and friends — young, old, and in between.

Peter was an excellent cook, who relished the role of chef and host. He shared his love of food with his 3 sons, and took pride in the side-by-side chopping, slicing and dicing, while taking time to reveal his osso buco or mango salsa secrets with them.

A lover of the garden, Peter tended to his many tomato plants with unusually precise attention.

He adored the water and snow, was an avid skier on both land and sea, and taught his boys to drive a boat, wakeboard in the sun, and carve the slopes with the best of them. Swimming at dusk in the Long Island Sound with his dog Jackson was also among his greatest pleasures in life.

In addition to his wife, Liz Milwe, Peter is survived by sons James and Jon Wormser; his brother, Tom Wormser; sister-in-laws Cindy Goodman Wormser, Marjorie Leiberman and Judy Milwe; nieces Cindy Milwe, Alison Milwe Grace, Julie Howes and Megan Wormser, and nephew Matt Wormser.

A memorial service is set for Sunday, July 25 (4 p.m., Cedar Point Yacht Club).

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to Westport Friends of Park and Rec/Tim’s Kitchen, c/o Wakeman Town Farm, 134 Cross Highway, Westport CT 06880.

20 responses to “Remembering Peter Wormser

  1. Vivianne Pommier

    My prayers and condolences to Liz and her family

  2. Kristan Hamlin

    This is heartbreaking news. Jon and my son played soccer together and Peter was their assistant coach, and made it so fun for the boys, as he did with everything. He was a great community member, dad, husband, friend. We are sending love and hugs to Liz, James and Jon and a donation to Tim’s Kitchen at Wakeman, which Peter was so critical in designing. Westport has lost a shining star, a warm smile and a dear friend.

  3. Sal liccione

    To Liz and Jon and family Peter will be missed by the town of Westport and everyone who met him and got to no him to Liz and Jon and James I am here for you guys and Liz you need anything contact me sal liccione Peter will be in our prayers

  4. To Liz, We are so saddened at this news. Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts. Please accept our deepest sympathies. —
    Judy and Adam

  5. Thanks, Dan – Peter was an extraordinary person and we are heartbroken both for Liz and Jon, and for ourselves as well… He was a force of nature, he and Liz are kind of unstoppable when it comes to causes close to their hearts. I guess I began to believe that no illness was going to get the better of him, either.

    Our kids went to school together and we joined forces on a couple of pet projects. Peter’s office and mine share a wall, and we could overhear one another’s conversations over the years… and sometimes laughed hysterically afterward about the madness of running client-centric businesses.

    Those of us who worked with Peter every day feel an emptiness that cannot be filled.

  6. Patricia McMahon

    My deepest and sincere condolences to Liz, their family & friends .

  7. Michael Calise

    So sorry to read this, Peter was a pleasure to know. My condolences to Liz and their family.

  8. Pegeen Gaherin

    My deepest condolences to Liz and family.

    Pegeen Gaherin

  9. Nanette Hausman

    We are so sad to hear this news. Peter touched each member of our family individually. He was always sincerely interested in what each of us had to say and remembered what was going on in our lives, a truly special trait. He was unselfish, talented, smart and a very fast strong runner (kudos to Jackson for keeping up). Along with Tim, he will remain in our hearts forever. The Hausman Family

  10. Lily Robinson

    Peter Wormser was my mentor —he taught me not only how to design but also how to treat others, both clients and colleagues. He was down to earth, approachable, and a creative spirit with positive energy, always with a warm smile and encouraging words. He is deeply loved and missed beyond words.

  11. Sheri Gordon

    Westport has lost one of its bright lights. To Liz and all of Peter’s beloved family, I am so sorry for your loss.

  12. Catherine Calise

    So very sad & heartbreaking to hear. Peter was a wonderful man , always with a smile. He will be missed. I am so very sorry Liz for you and your family. Sending prayers and love.

  13. Michael A Rea

    Liz & Family our deepest sympathies. May Peter RIP and may you be comforted by the love he had for you and your family and all of us who were fortunate to know him. He will be missed.

  14. Cindy Milwe

    There was no one in the world like my beloved Uncle Peter. I love you Liz, James, and Jon.

  15. I didn’t know Peter, but I did know Liz from Staples. Please accept my condolences. Interesting thing I just found on the web: a 1984 letter to the NY Times from Peter and his architect partners defending the NY Vietnam Veterans’ memorial against a critical OpEd by James “Scotty” Reston. Reston thought the memorial should have honored those who DIDN’T serve as well as those who did. (A rather odd request for a veteran’s memorial, I think!) The architects’ defense was much more sensible than the criticism by by the celebrated columnist, in my opinion. See:

  16. Bobbi Essagof

    Peter was a man who loved to cook but appeared to enjoy sharing his creations with friends and loved ones even more. He was a gift to all of us. Rest In Peace dear friend.

  17. Nancy Axthelm

    A wonderful man.
    A remarkable legacy.

  18. Leigh Tobias

    I will miss you wonderful creative spirit Peter. So glad I eas able to know you.
    Much love LeighB

  19. Missy Marquardt

    Liz, you and Peter have been the source, the energy of much more than two and I admire you from afar. I’m so sad you’ve lost your partner, his work goes on and you are a force for the betterment of our Mama Earth. You take care Liz, lots of love. Missy Dix

  20. Joseph Bresnan FAIA

    I first met Peter when he and his design team mates entered the Competition for the New York City Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and worked with him through the design and construction of the Memorial and beyond. I will keep him in my memory as a colleague and friend. I had served as Monuments Officer and Director of Historic Parks, NYC Department of Parks (1965-1985). With condolences to his family and friends.