Roger Polk

PolkRoger Polk, 73, on January 12, 2021, from COVID-19, in Oakland, Calif. Roger was born on September 30, 1947, the second of two children, to Fred Polk and Paula Maria (Berger) Polk, both immigrants from Austria who adopted the Quaker faith once in the United States. The family lived in Westbury on New York’s Long Island. Roger was born a Friend and attended First-day school as a child at Westbury (N.Y.) Meeting. He went to high school at Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and was a student in the second class of Friends World College (FWC), 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 a master’s 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. 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, whom he met in 1969 and traveled with until his death.

In 1987, Roger began a 23-year career with Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif. His first position was assisting with audio/visual needs in the library. When the college initiated its distance learning program, Roger converted traditional classrooms into classrooms equipped with cameras and microphones to be used to broadcast classes on the college’s cable channel. He produced educational programs and became manager of the college’s cable television station. Roger was fascinated with the Internet in its earliest days. While working full time, he enrolled in a postgraduate educational technology program at San Francisco State University and earned a master of science degree. Thereafter, Roger developed multimedia applications for the college faculty and became webmaster.

Roger was an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction. He coordinated book clubs while working at the college and following retirement. He loved animals, especially dogs, and was a volunteer dog walker at the Berkeley Animal Shelter.

Roger began regular attendance at Berkeley (Calif.) Meeting in 2012. About the same time, three people to whom he had felt close died. Sharing his feelings of grief with members of the meeting meant a great deal to him. Roger deepened ties with the meeting and became a member on December 13, 2015. He served on the Kitchen and Property Committees.

Roger had too little time to enjoy retirement before Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia slowly but relentlessly attacked both his body and his mind. While sometimes hard for him to accept, he dealt with his afflictions courageously and made decisions based on things he loved. He moved from his unique wood-paneled home in Richmond Heights to the Lake Merritt Hotel in Oakland. Subsequently, he moved to Merrill Gardens, a senior housing facility in Oakland.

In addition to his companion, Catherine McEver, Roger is survived by a sister, Nancy Polk (Jack Hasegawa).

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