The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club received a letter last week that long time member and former BLBC president George Steedman passed away at his home in Lodi at the remarkable age of 102. George’s obituary in the Lodi News-Sentinel does a very nice job of telling many exciting and worthwhile things George and Helen Steedman accomplished (it is worth a read).
George joined the BLBC in 1969. As the “winners’ board” on the clubhouse wall attests, the Steedmans played bowls very well: from the 1970s to the 1990s, the Steedman name appears frequently among the intra-club events victors. As bowlers, they both were competitive without being flashy and were gracious in victory and defeat. George may have been the best draw bowler this writer ever witnessed, and he freely imparted this advice: “If you have a choice between a heavy shot and draw, choose the draw shot.” And he took his own advice. Frequently advised by seconds to drive, George might deign to go heavy with a “yard on” shot; but never a drive. Usually, though, he stuck with drawing a shot to devastating effect.
Off the green, George served as president of the BLBC in 1983, and Helen could be counted on to provide welcoming hospitality inside the clubhouse. George served many years as chairman of the Memorial and Endowment Fund, and the Fund still benefits from his thoughtful and careful work in this area. In the 1990s, George became chairman of the BLBC’s lease committee, and he patiently and wisely guided the club through the tricky political landscape the club faced at that time. His efforts paid off, and the BLBC received a long-term lease that ensured the club’s continued presence in Berkeley.
After Helen passed away, George continued bowling well at the club before eventually moving to the Lodi area. George always behaved as a true gentleman and his demeanor served to bring out the best in those of us who knew him. Saying “no” to a request from George – a man who did so much for the club — was just about impossible. George’s natural curiosity about the world and its people meant that he was always ready for a good conversation about current events, the economy, the Cal sports teams’ prospects, and many other subjects. The BLBC offers its sympathies to George’s family, but we also remember with gratitude the many years of good bowling and excellent service the Steedmans generously gave to us. Thank you, George!
We recently received news that former BLBC president Myra (Kolitsch) Baylor passed away earlier this year. Myra served the club in many ways, including serving as a board member and head of the coaching committee before being elected as the first (and to date only) woman president of the BLBC.
Myra hailed from Appleton, Wisconsin, and grew up in a large family. While a young student, Myra fell ill with scarlet fever and made up for lost school time by becoming a voracious reader and autodidact. She always enjoyed hearing about what other people were reading, and gently encouraged others into reading her favorite authors (she particularly enjoyed Vladimir Nabokov).
In one of her first jobs she worked as an assistant librarian at the public library in her town. She remembered that, when the Great Depression hit, people swarmed to the library for heat and relief from the harsh Wisconsin winter. She recounted that, at the end of the day, people would steal the library’s newspapers to use as insulation in their shoes that night. The head librarian drove herself to distraction trying to protect her newspapers. Myra came up with a solution: instead of trying to protect all the newspapers, Myra made a deal with readers in need: Myra would make sure 1 complete newspaper remained available for the library’s records and she would make all other copies of the day’s newspaper available for the cold night ahead. This story sums up Myra’s character: find a way to do the right thing and find a way to treat people respectfully and compassionately.
Myra went to university to become a professional librarian (with degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University). She came to the University of California in Berkeley in the 1940s and worked as a librarian into the 1980s. She met her future husband, former BLBC president Bob Baylor, at the Berkeley bowling green. In retirement she also served on the Berkeley Public Library board.
Myra’s commitment to people and ideals made her a superb coach and a great teammate for lawn bowling. She had a keen eye for strategy, and proved that bowls is game for everyone. Stronger and more experienced bowlers mistook Myra’s gentle demeanor for weakness at their peril. She recounted with particular glee the time she skipped a team of, as she called it, “3 little old ladies” against a seasoned team led by a nationally ranked man. Myra instructed her lead to roll two bowls short at every end to cause obstacles for the opposition: Myra’s famous super-wide 3s easily went around the blockers. The little old ladies won. Handily. Anyone who was on the receiving end of Myra delivering a bowl or dropping a run of doubles in dominos knows the mischievous yet charming glint that came to her eyes as she emerged victorious. She was obviously competitive, but valued good play far above winning.
Myra’s bowling legacy continues today: her coaching success can be seen in the bowling accomplishments of many current Berkeley bowlers. Myra provided the energy and inspiration that led to the creation of the special “Low Income or Disabled” and “Student” memberships. Myra was a force of nature and a kind, generous person. The BLBC is lucky she came along and is grateful that she gave so much talent and energy to our club. We offer our belated condolences to Myra’s family.
Our coaches will be on the green on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10:00 to give lessons. It’s FREE, and you have nothing to bring except a desire to have some fun and flat soled shoes or sneakers.
Free lessons this Saturday and Sunday…unless it’s raining.
Note: There will be no free lessons on Saturday, 6 (October and Saturday, 7 October due to club events.
If you like – and we’d love it – get together a group of four or six and learn together. You’ll be involved in a match after just a few minutes of instruction.