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Memorials: Berkeley Monthly Meeting

Roger Polk

Date of birth

Sept. 30, 1947

Date of death

Jan. 12, 2021


Berkeley Monthly Meeting

Memorial minute

Roger Polk was born on September 30, 1947, the second of two children, to Fred Polk and Paula Maria Polk (née Berger), both immigrants from Austria. The family lived in Westbury on New York’s Long Island. They adopted the Quaker faith once in America. Roger was born a Friend and was enrolled in First Day School as a child in Westbury Friends Meeting in New York. He attended high school at Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York. He was a pioneer student in the second class of Friends World College, a Quaker experiment in experiential education with the goal of creating citizens of the world. As a student, Roger was interested in the collective unconscious and wanted to see what evidence there might be for it.  His final paper at FWC was titled “Mankind's Search for Meaning.” Later, he earned an MA degree at San Francisco State University. Roger engaged in projects and independent study in Europe, East Africa, Mexico, India and Japan. In Tanzania, he worked with Jane Goodall and her husband, photographer Hugo van Lawick, tracking and capturing images of cheetahs on the Serengeti. His friendships that began at FWC lasted through his  lifetime, including his classmate Kathleen McLean and the person who would become his life companion, Catherine McEver. Roger and Catherine met in 1969, and she traveled with him until his death.

Shortly after graduation Roger served for an interlude as interim co-director of the East African center. He then settled in Berkeley, California and worked in video production for the Oakland Museum of California and the Drug Abuse Training Center Hayward, and with computer hardware for Beck-Teck. In 1987, he began a 23-year career with Contra Costa College in San Pablo, California. Roger started at the college assisting with audio/visual needs in the library. When the college began its distance learning program, Roger converted traditional classrooms into ones with cameras and microphones so they could be used to broadcast classes on the college’s cable channel. He produced educational programs and then became the manager of the college’s cable television station, which played both in-house and syndicated programs for college credit.

Roger was fascinated with the internet in its earliest days, and, while working full time, he enrolled in a post-graduate educational technology program at San Francisco State University where he received a Master of Science degree. He developed multimedia applications for the college faculty and became web master, where he helped put course material on the internet.

Roger was passionate about traveling. He loved hiking and rafting the Yukon River in Alaska, wilderness canoeing, walking the sleety British Columbia coast in winter, and visiting such places as the rainforest. During his travels he visited many churches of different faiths and was interested in their religious symbolisms; however he felt unable to make a spiritual connection with them.

Roger was an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction. He coordinated book clubs while working at the college and after he retired. He loved animals, especially dogs, and was a volunteer dog walker at the Berkeley Animal Shelter. Another of his loves was food, and he very much enjoyed potlucks.

Roger began regular attendance at Berkeley Friends Meeting in 2012.  About the same time, three people to whom he had felt close died. Sharing his feelings of grief with some members of the Meeting meant a great deal to him. He wanted to give back to the Meeting. This led him to deepen ties with the Meeting through gaining membership.  He became a member of the Meeting on December 13, 2015. At Berkeley Friends, he served on the Kitchen and Property committees.

Roger had too little time in retirement before Parkinson’s and Lewy Body dementia slowly, but relentlessly attacked both his body and his mind. While sometimes hard for him to accept, he dealt with it courageously and made decisions based on the things he loved. He moved from his unique wood paneled home in Richmond Heights to the Lake Merritt Hotel in Oakland, where he enjoyed talking to and sharing histories with the residents. Subsequently he moved to Merrill Gardens, which he chose over others because he believed it had the best food. He had had a most adventurous life and lived it as a loving, generous spirit who was always ready to lend a helping hand.

Roger ultimately died from COVID-19 on January 12, 2021. In addition to his companion Catherine McEver, Roger is survived by his sister Nancy Polk, Nancy’s husband Jack Hasegawa, Nancy’s child Peter Akira Polk Hasegawa, Peter’s wife Phoebe Robeson Brown, and Peter’s and Phoebe’s child Kyoto. 

Berkeley Friends Meeting held a remote memorial meeting for Roger on April 10, 2021.