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.