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Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Jim Locke

 James Stephen Locke


            Jim Locke embodied the truth that the real quality of a person lies in his spiritual excellence and in the quality of his character, not his knowledge, wealth, sophistication, or worldly accomplishments.  Those who knew him for 20 years or for only the last few months of his life testified to his richness in the former, although he lived a life with few of those material benefits that make this transitory life comfortable. 


             He lived a simple, devotional life. After serving in the U.S. Army band as a saxophone player, he turned to the service of Christ when he found the Christian ministry Agape Force in Denver, Colorado, in the last 20 years of his life. He served with Agape Force in a missionary team working in the mid-west, moving from town to town and carrying sleeping bags for bedding. Jim was an excellent saxophone player. He would begin playing the saxophone in the evening, playing tunes like “When the Saints Go Marching In” and attract an audience, and then play more religious music once a crowd had gathered.


            He lived and served on the Texas ranch of Agape Force for many years. He would pick up trash along the side of the road. One friend remembered seeing him doing this one day, standing by himself and speaking to a snake, telling the snake “Leave me alone – I’m just here to pick up trash. You go your way and I’ll go mine.”   He helped sell fruit in the local market, arriving at 4:00 a.m., carrying his Bible with him and talking about Jesus. He enjoyed the simple chores, like carrying the hay to the horses and watching them eat. Sometimes Jim would go into the woods, alone with his saxophone, and commune with God in this way. He loved playing the Pink Panther song.


            One day, a friend of his on the ranch asked Jim to bring him a plate of food from town when Jim returned in the evening, about 7:00 or 7:30, explaining that this would be his only food that day. He told Jim not to forget. About 4:30 that afternoon, Jim arrived at his friend’s place, carrying with him only a small plate of food. The friend was initially disappointed by the small amount of food, but Jim explained that he did not want him to wait all day to eat, so he brought him something early. Jim had walked, alone, 10 miles from town, carrying the plate with the food. It was a humbling experience for Jim’s friend.


            Jim enjoyed living and seeing other people enjoy themselves. His friends remember him as good-natured and laughing and creative, warm and gentle and kind and happy. He did his work cheerfully and faithfully. He did not complain about working outdoors in the cold. He would give a straight answer in conversation.


            Jim Locke formally registered as a Bahá’í eleven months before he passed away. He worked at the local Goodwill store and lived alone in a small apartment that had very few things in it. He was humble and uncomplaining about his life. Friends would regularly pick him up and give him a ride to Feast, Holy Days, and other occasions. When a saxophone was provided to him at the monthly Devotional Meeting, he would display to all his musical talent. He was a quiet and peaceful presence at Bahá’í occasions, and pleased to be present enjoying his association with his new friends. At this late time in his life, he had great trouble walking, shuffling his feet and moving slowly, but it never prevented him from getting out and doing those simple things that he loved.


            Jim was at work on Thursday, December 23rd, 1999, when late in the morning he suffered a heart attack and was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital. His soul ascended that morning to God’s most glorious kingdom. No family could be found to participate in the funeral. His mortal remains were laid to rest by his friends the morning of Friday, December 31st at Mountain View Memorial Park cemetery with a graveside Bahá’í service that included recorded saxophone music. The grave stone, placed by his Christian friends, shows a saxophone playing music and reads “a simple Jesus lovin’ man”. 



 Photo of Jim courtesy of The News Tribune





Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Eugene & Melba King



Eugene and Melba King


Source: Alaska Bahá’í News

                             September/October 1999   Number 429


    Bahá’í Tlingit Elder Eugene King 1918-1999


Eugene King was born on September 25, 1918 in Haines, Alaska and died at the Mount Edgecumbe Hospital on September 20,1999 at the age of 80.


His parents, Charles King, Sr. of Angoon, and Gladys James King of Sitka, his three brothers – Charles, Richard, and Roy, and two sisters – Ida and Pearl all preceded him to the next world. Mr. King was a Tlinget of the Eagle Tribe, Kaag-Wam-Taan Clan, Wolf House.


Melba King in Tacoma in 1958


After the passing of his mother, Eugene went to the Haines House Orphanage in 1917 through 1921, and then was raised by his aunt, Ruth Hayes of Juneau.  He then went to Sheldon Jackson from 1929 to 1937.


Eugene was twelve years old when he enrolled in the Sheldon Jackson High School, and stayed at that boarding school until his graduation.  There he worked as the early morning fireman, took courses in vocational g in Machinery and Plumbing, and worked in the school’s hydroelectric plant with diesel oil burners.  Eugene took part in the usual occasions such as the Easter Sunrise Service, and was in the Church Choir, often singing at the Sitka Pioneer Home.  He was an avid student of the Holy Bible, often pondering the mysterious questions of the Bible.  He always participated in Field Day events, the Sheldon Jackson Fellowship activities, the school band, and the midweek Prayer Services.  He played Varsity Basketball as well as Track, and held the record High Jump at 5’10” for many years.  He also played Soccerball, Football and was in Amateur Boxing.  He earned good grades with hopes of going on to college.  Eugene graduated in May 1937.  In 1938, Eugene began – working on the Sheldon Jackson Presbyterian missionary boat, the Princeton Hall where he took a beginner’s course in Navigation.  They traveled constantly, held meetings in small communities, sometimes helping in repairs and maintenance of community churches, picking up students to attend Sheldon Jackson, delivered groceries to ministers in outlying communities, and ran mercy missions where they would pick up people needing hospital attention.


Eugene began having problems with his eyes about 1938 or 1939 and he began losing his eyesight in 1942.  In 1945, likely due to Tuberculosis in the eyes, he was diagnosed with only 2% vision.  Eugene said losing his sight never really concerned him He always had the idea that it was for a reason, so it never really bothered him.


Eugene worked for Northwest Sheetmetal Works at Kent, Washington during the War until work began winding down when he went to Seattle to find work and attended the Washington Training Center for the blind.  He found work as a weaver, making baby blankets and neckties.  There he met Melba Call of Kotzebue.  Melba was blind from birth.  She had just returned from New Mexico, teaching newly-blinded adults.  They were married in September 1944.  She taught him how to use a cane, how to maneuver around Seattle by bus, and some Braille., which she knew very well. At that time, Melba taught him the Bahá’í Faith.


In 1952, they moved to Tacoma where they attended many Bahá’í social activities and public meetings. Eugene began to think of those unanswered questions he had stored up from the Bible and began studying the Bahá’í Faith.  Eventually, he could not disprove what he learned while attending Sheldon Jackson.  He told his wife, Melba, “You know, I think I believe in this, I think I would like to be a Bahá’í.” That was on November 30, 1954.


A few days before that, Eugene had a dream.  He said he “got up one night and went into the living room and moved to his right.  The whole living room was aglow, then the walls, the ceiling and floor were all covered with leaves of gold, with a bright light toward the left where he saw a robed man with a black beard and. a long robe standing with a kindly look,” and He looked at Eugene as if he could see right through him.  The next night he was to meet with the Spiritual Assembly of Tacoma, and he was seated at the same place he stood the night before.  The Spiritual Assembly asked him some questions about the history of the Bahá’í Faith.  Eugene said he didn’t know much, but he believed in Bahá’u’lláh.  There he signed a Declaration card.  He said this was his physical act of a spiritual transformation.


Eugene gave his first talk on the Bahá’í Faith about Life after Death six months later.  He was elected Vice-Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of Tacoma that same year and the following year he was elected Chairman, serving in that post for several years.  Eventually, they returned to Seattle where he also served as Chairman for many years.


Eugene and Melba moved to Douglas, Alaska to teach the tenets of the Bahá’í Faith to the Native people under the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly of Alaska.  He traveled to Hoonah during the late 1950’s to early 1960.  He also went to Angoon, Fort Yukon, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Nenana, Southeast, Cordova, and Valdez.  He was elected to the Spiritual Assembly of Douglas and that year was elected a delegate to the Bahá’í National Convention, then in 1970 he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly.  He served on that body in 1970-71.  Eugene and Melba moved back to Seattle for health reasons in April 1972.  Eugene returned to Juneau, Alaska in November 1979 after Melba passed away and was once again elected to the National Spiritual Assembly from 1980 to 1991, when poor health forced his resignation.






Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Inga Wilson


         Inga Wilson in Tacoma in 1944




February 11, 1895 to September 5, 1984


From an interview with Judge Jack Tanner


I knew Inga Wilson since I was 10 or 11 years old.  She and Emmerson were married in 1916 – 3 years before I was born.  My father was best man at their wedding.  I worked for Emmerson for a time installing sprinkler systems in Lakewood.


When I was a child, there were Alice and Inga (Inga Wilson’s two daughters) and my older sister and me – four children in two families.  I was very found of Inga.  I felt like a son to her, and she considered me as her son, and a part of her family.


Inga followed my career.  I know she followed my career up to the time she died – I know this because Elizabeth Johnson would clip out all the news articles and send them to her.  I know Elizabeth very well.  She and Inga were always arguing.  Always!  Yet they were always the best of friends.  I never understood that.  They were always arguing over who was smartest: Norwegians or Swedes.  They would keep us rolling in the isle with laughter.


Inga was the most compassionate, thoughtful, and loving person I have ever known.  She didn’t have a prejudiced bone in her body.  She felt no prejudice with regard to race, religion or color.  If ever there was a person who practiced her faith, it was she.  A lot of people just go to church on Sunday.  She was not like that: she lived it and loved it and practiced her faith every day.


[Author of the above sketch is unknown.]



            Inga Wilson, 89, a former Tacoma resident, died Sunday in Las Vegas where she had lived the past several years.

            She was born in Bergen, Norway, and came to Tacoma about 50 years ago. She lived in California before moving to Las Vegas. She was of the Bahá’í Faith.

            Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. Nick (Alicia) Georgiade of Las Vegas and Mrs. Richard (Inga) Jay of Tryon, N.C.; a  sister in Norway; and three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

            Buckley-King Downtown is in charge.  


            (Tacoma News Tribune, Thursday, September 6, 1984)



Inga Wilson’s funeral service was held in Tacoma on September 10, 1984.  Judge Jack Tanner spoke at her funeral.



Federal District Court Judge Jack Tanner

Photo courtesy of 





Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Jo Sand

Image courtesy of Médiathèque Baha’ie Francophone


Bahá’í Teacher of Unity


Prehistory – A Farmer’s Compassion


The ancestors of Jo Sand’s maternal grandmother were Cherokee refugees traveling on the northern stream of Indian families on the Trail of Tears. As they passed through southern Illinois in the winter, many had already died from disease, exhaustion, and the cold.     


No one would let them rest on their journey, but drove them further along until one farmer near Marion took pity on them and allowed them to winter over on his farm, providing food, clothing and shelter. I was told that his name was Hubbard, and some took his name as a tribute to his merciful generosity.


Jo Sand was born Jo Ann Hubbard on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1933, in St. Louis, Missouri. 


Early years – Grandmother Hubbard


When Jo was an infant, her vision was precarious – her grandmother was told that the baby would soon be blind. Her grandmother applied a salve from an Indian remedy directly to the infant’s eyes, and it saved her vision, though her eyesight remained extremely poor in her life.


Her mother returned to New Orleans, and Jo was raised by her grandmother and aged grandfather. Jo said that the strength of character, faith, and guidance of her grandmother was the inspiration of her life, and learned her silent faith in God’s provision and service to the unfortunate and the poor from Grandmother Hubbard.


Growing Up 


Her father was Jewish, but she saw him only once- when she was ten years old.


When her grandmother died, her mother raised her for a few years until Jo was fifteen years old.




Jo moved to Tacoma where she met and married a man named William van Buskirk, with whom she had her only child. Jo was soon left to raise her daughter, Kristine Lee, by herself. She earned enough money working as a bookkeeper to buy a small house on Cushman Avenue in Tacoma, and took courses at the University of Puget Sound.   


She subsequently married Ray Sand, and moved to Raymond, Washington. No children came from that marriage, and she moved back to Tacoma.


Community Action- MDC and Indian School


Jo went to work about 1967 at the local Community Action Agency in Tacoma, a part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty. The local, anti-poverty agency was then called Opportunity & Development Inc. (ODI), and was later reorganized as Metropolitan Development Council, directed by the brilliant William Seline. As its Finance Officer, she had a fundamental influence on the success of the agency and was responsible for not only its financial management and planning, but was instrumental in the conception, development, and operations management of the large number of anti-poverty and training projects of MDC. Many of them were pilot programs unique in the state or the nation, which became models for similar projects around the country, and were spun off into the community to become independent organizations contributing to the life and welfare of the area: Indian School, Gypsy Education, Law & Justice, Communications and Journalism, Infant Nutrition, Drug Addiction Treatment, Displaced Homemakers, Hispanic Employment and Education, Asian Community Services, Family Counseling… the list goes on and on. Her long-time boss and friend, Linsey Hinand, said, simply, “She was a genius.”


She was a natural teacher, and throughout her short life, trained and educated a large number of people in classrooms, workshops and seminars, and in small groups and individually. She seemed dedicated to promoting every good thing but herself.


One of her loves was Indian Teaching, and she was the primary grant planner for the original project that established the Tacoma Indian School Education Grant at the old Hawthorne school. She left MDC to devote more time to the Puyallup Tribe’s Indian School, and was working alone there late one night on her own time when she began to have a heart attack.




Jo Sand became a Bahá’í in Tacoma, and served on its local Spiritual Assembly and on many committees and teaching projects.


Personal Benevolence


Jo Sand was an extraordinary person. I never knew her to work at only one job for long – she usually worked at two or more jobs. I once even estimated a year’s contribution in off-duty personal time to MDC alone, and was stupefied by the total. She worked late into the night on her own time on an endless variety of projects, and taught innumerable groups financial management, grant writing, and project planning. She gave her personal time to individuals to teach them planning, accounting, teaching English to refugees, and she helped people obtain their citizenship, get jobs, and buy their first homes.


She sponsored two Laotian refugees, and adopted the younger one, Tong Chanh, who later took the name, Mark Sand, in her honor.


And that was only some of those cases I knew about. She had asked me to be the Executor of her will, and in examining her papers, I discovered further evidence of a lifetime of throwing herself into perpetual service – letters thanking her for this or that help and assistance getting into school, jobs, counseling, services, and direction. She gave her money, her time, her energy, her talent, her knowledge and wisdom, and, ultimately, her life in service. I found a letter and a photograph of a 12 year old girl in India for whom she had been the principal support for years. I wrote to the last known address to tell the sad news. 




Jo drove herself to the hospital when she began to have pains over her chest, and was placed immediately in Intensive Care.


I had been helping her work on a transportation planning project for Indian School at her house on Thursday, and promised to come back the next day to complete it. When I arrived at her home, she was not there, but she called later saying that she was in the hospital. When I got there, she was resting, so I didn’t wake her, but went to see her that evening. It was clear that she was in grave danger, and her life support and cardiac monitoring machines would go wild whenever she spoke or raised her arm. We went home, and received the call from her daughter that she had passed from this world about an hour after midnight, nine days after her 45th birthday.


The multitude of people who attended her funeral was an astonishing mix of humanity: there were people of every color and ethnic background. Every age, economic, educational and religious group seemed to be represented. The most striking thing about that human concourse was that every single person attending had come because she had done something directly for every one of them to make each of their lives better – they stood up spontaneously and recounted one after another, weeping unashamedly, of the difference that she had made in their lives.


Her mortal remains rest in the Old Tacoma Cemetery. The bronze plaque over her grave at the foot of a great oak says,


                                                                                              Jo Sand

                                                                               Bahá’í Teacher of Unity





Prepared by Loyd Myatt


Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Richard & Lois Nolen, Knights of Bahá’u’lláh



The first Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Terceira Island, Azores, April 1958. Photo from The Bahá’í World 1954 – 1963.


Seated left to right are Lois Nolen, Fran Plummer, Josie Wallace, and Ethel Kerns. Standing left to right are Charles Sperling, Jack Kerns, Don Plummer, Nelson Wallace and Richard Nolen. Charles Sperling later lived in Lakewood, Washington (Pierce County).








Richard and Lois Nolen

Knights of Bahá’u’lláh


          Lois A. Nolen (born on 23 July 1917) and her husband, Richard H. Nolen, became Bahá’ís in 1949 in Lansing, Michigan after studying with Kenneth and Roberta Christian.


In 1953 the Nolens pioneered to the Azores, arriving with their three children, Jean, Cynthia and John, on 8 October 1955.  For this service they were named by the beloved Guardian Knights of Bahá’u’lláh.  After a period of struggle, Mr. Nolen eventually found employment as a draftsman, first for a U.S. contractor, and then for the U.S. government at Lajes Air Force base on Terceira Island, where the first Local Spiritual Assembly was formed at Ridván 1958.  Lois Nolen, having been trained for general office work, also worked between 1954 and 1959 as supply clerk with the U.S. Corps of Engineers at Lajes Field.


Mr. Nolen diligently applied himself to a study of the Portuguese language in order to equip himself to teach the Faith.  Two more children, Christopher and Sylvia, were born to them before Mr. Nolen’s failing health forced their return to Tacoma, Washington in 1962.  Mr. Nolen died on 5 May 1964.


Throughout most of her Bahá’í life, Lois Nolen served on Local Spiritual Assemblies, at least half of that time as either corresponding or recording secretary.  She also served for two years on the Western Washington School Committee under the aegis of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States.


From 1966 until 1971, in Tacoma, Washington, Lois was in sole charge of the office of Northwest Processing Company.


       Between 1971 and August 1973, Lois Nolen and her two youngest children, Christopher and Sylvia, pioneered in Belize, Central America.  Here, she served as corresponding secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly from April, 1972 until August 1973 when the family returned to the United States.  In 1973 she was privileged to attend the International Convention in Haifa as a delegate from Belize.


Upon returning to Tacoma, Lois worked as a procurement clerk at McChord Airforce Base until she came to the World Centre in March 1981.  In the Holy Land she served for a brief time in the Department of Finance before transferring to the Pilgrimage Department.  She left the World Centre in September 1985 to return to the United States.  Her time in the service of the Universal House of Justice was enhanced by the presence of two of her children, Cynthia Walcott O’Shea, and Christopher Nolen, who served at the World Centre for varying periods of time.


(Compiled by Roger White, 17 July 1986, from information in World Centre files and from “In Memoriam”, Richard H. Nolen, ‘The Bahá’í World’, vol.  XIV)



History of the Bahá’í Faith in the Azores

Prepared for Ridván 116 (1959)



    In 1953 our beloved guardian, Shoghi Effendi, gave to the Bahá’í world the Ten Year Plan. This plan for the period, beginning in 1953 and to end in 1963, was to be a world crusade to spread the message of Bahá’u’lláh to those countries and islands where no mention of the Blessed Beauty, the Lord of the Age, had been made.  Our greatly loved Guardian asked for the Bahá’ís to leave their homes and move to these virgin territories.


The name our Beloved Guardian gave to those who answered his call, was the Knights of Bahá’u’lláh.  At this time, hundreds of Bahá’ís from all over the world and from all walks of Life, packed up and moved to those areas the Guardian deemed most necessary to further the Cause of God in this newly ordained Springtime.


    Two of these Knights to answer the Guardian’s call were Mr. Richard Nolen and his wife Lois, of Lansing, Michigan.  They, together with their three children – Jean (aged twelve), Cynthia (aged seven), and John (aged five), volunteered to go to a virgin territory.


The American N.S.A. suggested the Azores Islands because the temperate climate would be easier for the children.  They knew little of the Islands except that they were Portuguese and had a mild climate.  Application was made for passports, and the Nolens sold their house and furniture, reducing their possessions to what could be carried in suitcases, plus eight packing crates.


By September 1953 they were ready to leave Lansing for New York City. At New York they boarded the Portuguese cargo ship “Ribiera Grande” bound for the Azores Islands.  On October 8, 1953 the ship arrived at the harbor of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira Island.  For several weeks the family stayed at the Hotel Atlantico near the docks, while Mr. Nolen looked for work.  He found it was just about impossible to find employment on the Portuguese economy. The Nolen family experienced very trying difficulties while seeking employment, and it was only their possessing a strong faith in the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh that enabled them to stay at their post.  Finally, through the will of God, Mr. Nolen was employed as draftsman with the Prime contractor, Snare Irons and Reynolds, at the American Air Force Base at Lajes Field Azores, on the other side of the Island.  Soon after this they moved to a rented home in the town of Praia da Victoria, located about two miles from the Base.


The Portuguese language proved slow to learn and difficult, and the progress in teaching the Faith at first was very difficult.  Meantime, they employed a Portuguese maid while Mrs. Nolen worked at the American Corps of Engineers, and in time they regained financial stability.


   For the next 3 years the Nolens introduced the Faith to many Portuguese and Americans without making any confirmations. Finally, after four years the first confirmations were made: they were S/Sgt. Nelson Wallace and his wife Josie, and Mr. Jack Kerns and his wife Ethel. They became Bahá’ís in January 1957.  The Wallaces are from York, Pennsylvania, while the Kerns are from Wilbraham, Mass.  From May 1955 to January 1957 the presence at Lajes Air Field of Airman William Rushing.Of Flint Michigan, was a welcome aid and comfort, and brightened the Nineteen-Day Feasts.


     With this group as a nucleus, the spirit of the faith grew to include Sgt. Charlie Sperling of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who became a Bahá’í in July 1957. Shortly thereafter, A/2c Donald Plummer and his wife, Francine, of Berlin, New Hampshire.


      S/Sgt. Wallace and S/Sgt. Sperling, then became co-teachers of the first Bahá’í Sunday School on Terceira Island, attended by Nelson Wallace Jr., Jane and Susan Kerns, and Cynthia and John Nolen. Sunday school was held each Sunday at one of the homes of the children. Classes included a study of the kingdoms, such as animal, vegetable, mineral, the Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God, then a study of the nine revealed religions, topped off by the study of the Faith.


          Since there were nine adult Bahá’ís on Terceira Island, on Ridvan, April 21, 1958 they automatically became the first Local Spiritual Assembly of the Azores.  In secret ballot, Mr. Nolen was elected Chairman S/Sgt. Wallace Vice-Chairman, Mrs. Kerns Treasurer, and Mrs. Nolen Secretary.  At this time committees were formed, volunteers for the different committees were: Teaching Commitee, S/Sgt. Wallace, Mr. Kerns, and S/Sgt. Sperling – they in turn elected S/Sgt. Wallace Chairman. The Feast Committee, a committee of one, was Mrs. Plummer.  The Archives Committe volunteeres were Mr. Kerns and Sgt. Sperling – as there only two members, no chairman was elected.  A photograph of the L.S.A. was sent to the Bahá’í News in Willmette Illinois. It appeared in the September issue (No. 331, p.119), Bahá’í year 115 (1958).


            In August 1958, M/Sgt. Lawrence Reynolds from Washington, D.C., and stationed at the base, declared and became a Bahá’í, thus bringing the roll call of members to ten, creating a community which the L.S.A. reported to at each Nineteen Day Feast.


At this time there were just a few Portuguese Nationals studying the Faith.Two of these were Mr. Edmundo Cabral and Mr. Emberto Goncalves, of Praia da Victoria.  Mr. Cabral became interested in the Faith through his contact with the Kerns, while Mr. Goncalves became interested through his contact with the Nolens.  For several months studies were held at the home of the Nolens, and finally after five years of work and prayer by those two beloved Knights of Bahá’u’lláh, the Nolens’ ceaseless work and prayers bore fruit, for on the lst of December 1958, both Mr.Goncalves and Mr. Cabral declared their belief in the Bahá’í Faith. And on the 6th of December they signed their Bahá’í Declaration cards and were accepted by the L.S.A. of Terceira, becoming the first Portuguese believers of the Azores Islands.  Future generations shall always remember and be extremely grateful to those four souls, the pioneers, the Nolens, who sacrificed so much in bringing the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh to the Azores Islands, and those two searching souls, Emberto Goncalves and Edmundo Cabral and the first Portuguese to accept Bahá’u’lláh. Although this is the end of this report for the Archives for the year (Bahá’í year 115 and part of 116) it is really the beginning.


Prepared by Archives Committee members:

Emberto Goncalves

Jack Kerns

S/Sgt. C.R. Sperling

Edmundo Cabral



Lois and Richard Nolen are buried beside one another in Pierce County, Washington.


     nolen-lois-12   nolen-richard-13  


Early Tacoma Bahá’ís – Lyle Ames


Lyle Ames, right, and Victor Frank, center, make a presentation to a local  government leader in an undated photograph. 



Lyle Ames


It can be said of Lyle Ames that he was a man of few words and many deeds.  He was strong, handsome, and physically fit. Loyalty, reliability, and trustworthiness were essential ingredients of his character.  It was his nature to help people. He was always helping someone, but he never talked much about it.  He accepted people pretty much as he found them. He did not make Judgments, but his appeal was to one’s reason, one’s intelligence, one’s higher nature.


Lyle did not have an easy life, but perhaps that’s what gave him his strength of character.  He was born in Tamahawk, Wisconsin on May 14, 1907 of an American/English father and an Indian mother of the Ojibway Tribe, the largest tribe of the Algonquin family.  Lyle was the second of four children born to Beardsley and Emma Ames.  His father was a cook, a rancher and a railroad blacksmith, so the family was always on the move in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Montana.


In those days, much of these lands were a wilderness.  They lived in log cabins in the backwoods, a life on the frontier.  Lyle’s education was acquired in a one-room schoolhouse, and one of his classmates was the well-known writer, A.B. Guthrie, who wrote “The Big Sky”.  In that little schoolhouse, Lyle acquired a love of learning and reading which he retained all his life.


One winter in Montana, his father left permanently.  His younger brother, Veryl, had just died of T.B. That left Lyle with his older brother Les, his mother, and his little sister, Orma.  They had one bag of flour, and Lyle said that they just barely survived that winter!


His mother and the young family began hewing their way in the wilderness.  They grew a little garden in the brush-cleared wilds, and Les and Lyle fished and hunted moose, elk, deer, pheasant, rabbit, and squirrel. Les and Lyle also earned a little by trapping game.  The brothers would leave early in the morning to take their furs to the trading posts and return late at night, with packs of wolves literally howling at their heels.  This love of nature and ability to survive off the land was in their blood, inherited from their Indian mother, and Lyle had said that the happiest years of his life were spent with Les, hunting, fishing and trapping in the wilderness.  At one point, they even did some mining in the mountains of Idaho.


Lyle adored his older brother, but Les liked to wander and was often far afield, so it fell to Lyle to be responsible for his mother and younger sister.  Lyle developed into an extremely responsible person, accepting his lot faithfully, and in later years befriending many people in many ways.


When.Lyle was still a young teenager his mother moved then to Vashon Island, where they raised chickens, and finally to Tacoma, where he remained.  Lyle knew poverty all his life until the time he started working on the Tacoma waterfront loading and unloading cargo ships.  He was initiated into the Longshoreman’s union in 1929.  This, however, was still not “easy street”,

since it was the year of the stockmarket crash and the beginning of the great depression.  Also, the conditions on the waterfront at that time were those of backbreaking physical labor and brutally long hours.  He participated in the longshoreman’s strikes of the early 1930’s, which were turning points for the improvement of the conditions of waterfront workers.  He spent 43 years on the Tacoma docks and was well respected by his co-workers.


Lyle was married for a short time, but lived mostly with his mother, providing and caring for her in her illness.  He has outlived every member of his family – the last, his father and sister, by 25 years.


In 1960, Lyle married Elsie Larson and embraced her sons and grandsons as his very own, and these became his family:

Gerald Larson of Tacoma

Paul, of Lake Surprise


Mark, of Woodenville

Rick, of Pullman, Washington State College

Kirk, of Tacoma

And Great-Grandson,

Breck Roy Larson, II


Lyle and Elsie were married 26 years.  When Elsie’s health permitted, they had an active life together, gardening, taking trips, and entertaining family and friends.  Lyle also had a woodshop in his garage and loved to work with wood.


In the early 1950’s, he heard about the Bahá’í Faith from his brother Les, and sister-in-law, Helene and in 1956, he became a Bahá’í.  This was a big turning point for Lyle.  He was already in middle-age when he took on this new way of life and it was not an easy task.  But he worked at it steadily. He struggled. He persevered.  And, little by little, he acquired those qualities of character, that vision, that faith, which enabled him to put into perspective the hardships of his past, the difficulties of his present, the uncertainties of his future, and move forward a fundamentally assured and happy man, at peace with his Maker and with himself.


For 30 years, Lyle was a pillar of the Tacoma Bahá’í Community and served on the Spiritual Assembly as either chairman, treasurer or librarian for virtually the whole of that time.  He lived the Bahá’í teachings to an exemplary degree: his actions reflected his beliefs and he did not waver.  And that is the highest tribute that we can pay to Lyle or to anyone.  He did not waver.  Through all the ups and downs of life, he was steadfast to the end.


Lyle Ames' grave marker


Such are the highlights of Lyle’s long and eventful life.  He has been characterized by some as an oak tree.  We thought he would always be there.  We expected him to last forever.  But this physical life is transitory.  It is not our permanent home.  It is only for passing through so the soul can acquire the qualities and virtues that it needs in its everlasting and eternal home.  Lyle did that, and now his soul has winged its way to its celestial nest.  A job well done, Lyle!



I wish to close with this passage from the Bahá’í writings: 


“It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought….  They that are the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe….  Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed.  It bestoweth joy, and is the bearer of gladness.  It conferreth the gift of everlasting life.”



March 26, 1988


This was the eulogy that was composed by Alda Spell.

It was delivered by Bill Spell at Lyle’s funeral.