by Jenny Coyle
A hero. A brilliant iconoclast. A legend. An uncompromising fanatic.
David Brower has been called all this and more in the weeks since his death on Nov. 6.
As the Sierra Club's first executive director, his charismatic leadership, innovative campaign ideas, boundless energy and tumultuous relationship with the Club Board of Directors were well-known in environmental circles.
Edgar Wayburn, the Club's honorary president, remembers the backpack trips that Brower led into the Sierra Nevada as far back as the 1940s.
"He took care of his people," said Wayburn, "but he led them on long hikes, coaxing them along saying, 'Just six more miles.' They became known as 'Brower miles' because they seemed longer than the standard mile."
Wayburn acknowledged the differences in their styles - his more conciliatory, Brower's less compromising - and said, "I could get good legislation passed, and Dave could get bad legislation stopped."
Club Board of Directors member Ed Dobson, who worked with Brower at Friends of the Earth, agreed Brower was steadfast in his positions - but also empathetic to his opponents' view. "I remember sitting at his dining table, talking about the people on the other side of an issue and how we could help them make transitions instead of pushing them like square pegs into a round hole."
Brower was also steadfast about serving strawberries with the waffles he cooked up for an eclectic, ever-changing circle of visitors to his Berkeley, Calif., home almost every Sunday he was in town. "He'd be in the kitchen, pumping out the waffles," said Tom Turner, who worked with Brower at the Sierra Club and later at Friends of the Earth. "The living room was so crowded with papers and maps and rocks and posters that everyone had to stand up to eat."
Club board member Chad Hanson, who will miss discussing issues with Brower over martinis, said Brower was "all heart," and that he criticized the Club because he loved it so much.
"Some people misunderstood that," Hanson said. "He loved the Sierra Club until the day he passed away."
Now the waffle iron is put away. A mile is exactly a mile.
And David Brower is gone forever.
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