By Winifred Walters, Friends of OPL Board Director
The Friends of Elmhurst Library (FOEL) and the Friends of OPL have lost a true friend. Allene Warren, chair of FOEL, shared the sad news of Pieter M. A. Bach’s death with the Friends of OPL board of directors. Pieter had served as the Treasurer/Secretary of FOEL since 2016 and was an active supporter of the Elmhurst Library for over 15 years. As secretary, Pieter made sure that FOEL’s 40+ members were informed of the group’s activities, such as the neighborhood litter walk (pre-COVID), and City meetings on topics of interest. He was also a loyal member of the Friends of OPL.
I sat down with Allene and Pieter’s life companion, Charles Aiken, outside of the Elmhurst Branch on 88th Avenue near International Boulevard on a recent spring day, masked and socially distanced, to learn more about Pieter’s involvement with the library.
How did Pieter become involved with FOEL?
When Pieter and Charles moved to the Elmhurst neighborhood in 2003, the first thing Pieter said about their new home was “it is just a block from the library.” Pieter believed that the public library is the anchor of every community.
What drew Pieter to FOEL?
He and Charles were involved in their local Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and helped to improve conditions for neighborhood residents, especially children. They started working with Patricia Richards, the Elmhurst Library branch manager at the time, to form a branch friends group. The purpose of the volunteer group is to assist the library staff in providing resources for the entire Elmhurst/East Oakland community. For example, the library helps adults looking for work and volunteers provide free assistance with job applications on the library’s public computers. FOEL also supports activities to help young people develop the skills necessary to become caring, productive adults and to provide them a safe haven after school.
What other interests and causes did Pieter have?
Pieter was a voracious reader and had a house full of books – 18 bookcases! His favorite authors were Jane Austen and E. F. Benson. He was also an author of fiction (under the pen name Matt Brooks) and of books on theater costumes and fashion. Pieter played the piano and loved cooking and cookbooks. He graduated from high school at age 16 and never stopped learning. He believed that knowledge is power.
His career included specialty bookselling (pre-internet), farming, and work as a legal assistant. His co-workers at the San Francisco law firm where he worked until 2016 remember him as kind, generous, understanding, and patient.
Through his involvement in the NCPC, Pieter met Frank Rose, known for his work as board president of the East Oakland Boxing Association, a nonprofit Pieter supported that helps young people build skills in academics, gardening, physical education and leadership.
The Elmhurst Branch Manager, Ana-Elba Pavon, sums up Pieter’s contributions this way: “I met Pieter over a decade ago when I first started working at the Elmhurst Branch. I could always count on Pieter for his humorous moral support, his dedication to the Elmhurst library community, and a gentle reminder to get our gutters cleaned. The FOEL were instrumental in making our backyard more welcoming for toddlers and people of all ages and stands as a testament to their efforts. He will be missed.”
Allene Warren provided this tribute: ”Pieter was the kind of colleague who made working with him a pleasure. Always ready to listen and consider all sides when there were decisions to be made. He may not have agreed, but was never disagreeable. Not only was he a friend of OPL, I considered him my friend. Words that come to mind when I think of him – generous, kind, honest, and welcoming. I will truly miss him.”
Indeed, the Elmhurst community has lost a treasured friend.