Pioneering California naturalist, author and longtime Sierra
Club supporter Elna Bakker passed away this summer, leaving
an estate valued in excess of $1 million to the Sierra Club.
Born in 1921 in Los Angeles, Bakker lived in Southern
California all her life. An expert on the ecology, geology
and anthropology of California, she was "a wonderful source
of information" for Club activists, said Mary Ferguson, the
former Angeles Chapter director of development.
Best known for her book An Island Called California, an
introduction to the natural history of the Golden State,
Bakker also wrote The Great Southwest;
Desert Journal; and
The Geology of the San Gabriel Range, which she was working
on at the time of her death.
With her husband, Gerhard, a professor of life science at
Los Angeles City College, Bakker traveled extensively around
the globe. The couple was affiliated with many conservation
organizations, but did not get involved with the Sierra Club
until a pivotal meeting with Ferguson.
In 1975, Bakker called Ferguson at the Angeles Chapter
office and asked for a briefing on the Sierra Club's
activities. Ferguson met with the couple at their home to
explain the history and purpose of the Club. "They were
particularly impressed with our mission to protect public
lands and habitat and with our grassroots structure," she
Shortly thereafter, the Bakkers willed their entire estate
to the Sierra Club. In 1983, Gerhard Bakker was killed by a
surfacing whale during a boating trip in Mexico's Scammon
Lagoon. After his death, his wife continued to deepen her
interest in the activities of the Sierra Club, especially in
those of the Angeles Chapter.
"Elna followed all the issues," said Ferguson. "She was
committed to saving public lands and habitat, and when we
were working on elections and political campaigns, she was
always there to support us. She understood the connection
between our progress and politics."
Bakker often cited Ferguson as the reason for her support of
the Sierra Club. The two women maintained a strong bond
until Bakker's death, Ferguson said.
"Elna had great integrity and lived an extraordinarily
honest life," she said. "It was a privilege to know her
and to work with her."
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