Daisy Lee Bitter
January 12, 1928 – November 3, 2023
Long time Alaska resident Daisy Lee, 95, passed peacefully away at her son’s home in Anchorage. Born in Parlier, Fresno County, California, she was the oldest of four siblings of Hans Andersen and Clara Jensen, a farming family in the San Juaquin valley. She was proud of her Danish heritage.
She married Conrad “Connie” Bitter in 1948 and they celebrated their 50th anniversary before he died in October 1999. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Arts of UC Fresno State and later earned her Master of Arts of Teaching from Alaska Methodist University. In 1954, Connie and Daisy Lee moved to Alaska.
Considered legendary in environmental science education, Daisy Lee was an award-winning educator, inspiring thousands of Alaska students, teachers, and others to learn and achieve their highest potential, using natural science in motivating ways. In her 29 years with the Anchorage School district, she was an elementary teacher, secondary science teacher, television teacher and producer where she created programs and teacher materials. She was the principal of Fairview and Susitna elementary schools. Just walking into her school, you could feel Daisy Lee’s presence and love for children and learning. She wrote the grants and was the first director of the Indian Education Program, and coordinated the Boarding Home Program for Native high school students.
When she retired to Homer in 1983, she was one of the originators of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies (CACS), and was instrumental in starting CACS’s Wynn Center near her home on Skyline Drive. She helped establish Homer’s first land trust, organized the first annual coastal walks, and shared her enthusiasm for the nature on KBBI public radio for three decades. Her last project was to compile her radio scripts into a book, Alaska’s Kachemak Currents.
She developed workshops, guided groups, trained volunteers, taught university teacher training classes, and supported teachers and students who visited the Peterson Bay field station. She demonstrated her passion for teaching, her talent at leading, her generosity in volunteering, and her gift at inspiring thousands of people of all ages to learn about and appreciate Alaska’s natural world. She said, “I was not looking for innovations, just more effective ways to help people learn and hopefully enjoy it in the process.” For more details, see her bio on the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame website.
Following her lifelong interest in botany, Daisy Lee became a Master Gardener, volunteering to advise and teach others. Her home has over 100 different varieties of native and domestic flowers and plants. In her 80s, she re-invented herself by becoming a peony farmer, planting thousands of peonies on her Kachemak Seascape Peony Farm.
At age 19, she was diagnosed with diabetes. She has been a role model who never let health issues hold her back. In 2014 she was recognized as the longest surviving person with diabetes in Alaska, and went on to live almost another decade. She was involved in numerous groups and associations and won many, many awards.
She was preceded in death by her husband Connie, her parents and her three siblings Verna Miller, Bud Andersen, and Marilyn Johnson. She is survived by her son, Tim Bitter, his wife Tina, nieces and nephews, and many friends. A celebration of life will be held next summer overlooking Kachemak Bay.