Rotary Club members share memories of Daisy Lee Bitter at meeting

Daisy Lee Bitter, a long-time Homer social scientist and environmental advocate, died Nov. 2 at the age of 95.

Born on Jan. 12, 1928, Bitter was teacher, author, contributor to Homer’s KBBI radio station and long-time science volunteer and early board member withHomer’s Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

At Homer’s Rotary Club meeting last week, members Milli Martin and Denice Clyne each took several moments to share some of Bitter’s accomplishments.

Martin talked about what it was like to live next to Daisy Lee and her husband, Conrad, on Skyline Drive near the Wynn Nature Center. The center, a facility run by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, was formed in part thanks to Bitter’s efforts as a Wynn committee member. It now includes the Daisy Lee Bitter interpretive log cabin. The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies website notes that, “the homestead was donated in 1990 by the Carl E. Wynn foundation in response to the commitment of CACS to care for and manage the 140-acre preserve in accord with the late Carl Wynn’s wishes.”

Martin praised Bitter as a personal advocate, noting that Bitter arranged to have Martin named as Learner of the Year through the Homer Public Library and supported her as a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education.

Martin noted many contributions Bitter made to the community, especially in the realm of gardening and marine research as a board member and volunteer at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

Martin concluded her segment of the presentation by sharing a memory of hiking at Milli’s Retreat, where the Kachemak Ski Club grooms Milli’s Loop at the Ohlson Mountain ski trails.

“About 15 years ago I got her up the knoll, then down to the cottonwoods and from there the lower trail took us through the huge bog orchid patch. When we got there Daisy Lee was still and didn’t say a word for several minutes, just gazing at the bog,” Martin remembered.

“She finally said ‘Milli, all the years I have explored Alaska, I have never seen anything like this.’ It was such a treasure to be with her at that time.”

Clyne spoke of “Kachemak Currents,” a radio commentary touching on aspects of the natural environment of Kachemak Bay and the surrounding areas, including Seldovia, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Halibut Cove and Peterson Bay, that Bitter and her husband contributed to KBBI for more than 34 years.

In 2021, Bitter published a book, also called “Kachemak Currents,” compiling several of the KBBI the radio broadcasts. In the introduction to a book, Bitter wrote “much of the material is based on personal experiences and those of my husband Conrad until he died in 1999.”

The book includes stories related to local wildlife, fish and other marine species, birds, marine biology, plankton and various suggestions for opportunities to explore the components of Kachemak Bay. Transcriptions for the radio commentary were collected by Gretchen Bersch.

In February, KBBI’s Kathleen Gustufson hosted a 2023 Coffee Table titled “Celebrating a life of adventure and service: KBBI honors Daisy Lee Bitter for her 95th birthday.”

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies will provide a memorial event, though nothing is scheduled at this time.