This tribute was written by David S. Steward.
Rachel Steward Baldwin, my aunt, was a pioneer her entire life. She was born into a family that had moved from Michigan to homestead in what is now Santa Ana,California. Her professional life turned to social work, but both her “eye” and her “heart” were in the wild lands.
Whenever she could she would camp out in her beloved mountains and the desert lands which surround the Los Angeles basin. When I was a boy, she took me to Yosemite National Parkand she and I climbed the trail to the top of the Yosemite Falls. It was a trip that reminded us of her father (my grandfather) who would, from time to time, take the summer and drive his horse and buckboard from Santa Ana over Tehachapi Pass, up the central California valley, over Tioga Pass, into Yosemite Valley,… and back. Rachel passed to me some sense of the wilderness which nurtured his soul.
Late in her life Rachel married a very long term friend. Not long thereafter she and Ray took their bright red Ford sedan, named “Redbird,” some special provisions and a couple extra tires for the road, and motored up the gravel AlCan Highway to ALASKA. This was, for her, the culmination of a dream of a lifetime. When she returned, she scarcely had words for the great snow-tipped mountains, the fields and fields of color, the huge skies and endless spaces. And she treasured the human silence which opened to her ears the many sounds of nature.
When our family moved to Sitka, Rachel was caring for her older sister; then she was too old to travel. She never saw the Tongass. But she read voraciously. Books on nature and describing adventures people have had in wild places were always at the top of her list. More personally, she saw our pictures of Alaska and heard our descriptions of Sitka and our boat trips nearby, and, in remarkable ways, shared our lives here.
We are delighted to celebrate Rachel Baldwin’s life as a pioneer and a lover of the wild, especially of Alaska.