The Rev. Cornelis "Neil" Johannes Bakker died on August 10, 2014 at the age of 97. Neil was born on May 29, 1917 to Hendrik Bakker and Dina Bakker. He served the US Army as a Tank Commander from 1941 to 1946, and continued with the Army Reserves after the war; he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University in 1949 and with a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1960.
Rev. Bakker was ordained to the ministry in 1963 by the First Unitarian Society of Gardner, MA. He served as a Protestant chaplain to the Gardner State Hospital from 1963 to 1977, and concurrently, minister to the First Unitarian Society of Gardner, MA from 1963 to 1979. He then served as minister to the First Universalist Church of Providence, RI from 1979 to his retirement in 1990. He was named Minister Emeritus of the First Unitarian Society of Gardner in 1984, and Minister Emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Providence in 1990.
Rev. Bakker was committed to both his faith and his community. He served as president and vice president of the Central Massachusetts District of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and served on the district’s board, evaluation committee, and appraisal committee. He also served as member and president of the North Atlantic Interdistrict Council of the UUA; the nominating committee and board of the Ballou-Channing District of the UUA; and the MA Council of Churches. He held membership with the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association; co-founded the Gardner-Athol Area Mental Health Association, and actively served the American Red Cross, United Way of America, the Doolittle Home, the Human Rights Committee, the CG Jung Center, the Netopian Club, and the Krishnamurti Society.
Neil held lifelong interests in stained glass, etching, trains, sport cars, fairs, foods, bicycling, hiking, and traveling. He was a talented artist and photographer, and had a love of classical music and opera.
Neil’s wife, Melba, describes him as a “wonderful father”, and a lover of people and laughter. “We adored each other,” she mused. Melba explains, “it didn’t matter who the person was, Neil treated all people equally and lovingly.”
Neil is survived by his wife of 57 years, Melba Ann Bakker, his devoted daughter, Stephanie A. Bakker; and his sister Henrietta Weiting. He is predeceased by his son, Frederick J. Bakker and his sister, Louise Kantor. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, September 14th, at 3pm, at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI, 1 Benevolent St, Providence, RI 02906.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI, 1 Benevolent St, Providence, RI 02906, or to Hamilton House, 276 Angell St, Providence, RI 02906 or the VNA of Rhode Island, 475 Kilvert Street, Warwick, RI, 02886.