Paul Bakken: Island Hero and Gentle Soul
Greenbank Resident Leaves Oasis for Beloved Wildlife
The historic homestead is the picture of peace and serenity on an early July morning. On the edge of a meadow, surrounded by forest and tucked away from the rest of the world, nature’s cheerful sounds are heard outside Paul Bakken’s front door.
A Downy Woodpecker lands in a nearby cherry tree and starts vigorously pecking. Three deer approach from the meadow. A curious Douglas squirrel scurries out of the woodshed, scolding us.
“These guys, they come running to me because they think I’m Paul,” Ron Hanson, Bakken’s nephew, says of the squirrels. “Paul always had seeds in his pockets.”
Paul Bakken died in June at the age of 93 while feeding the birds outside the home where he was born and lived nearly his entire life. “Almost as if he had planned it,” Hanson said.
The wild creatures who live in this idyllic spot in Greenbank are now without the gentle man who greeted them each day for much of the past century. They were his friends and neighbors.
Paul’s appreciation for nature and fondness for wildlife was legendary. He kept his many bird feeders full. He checked his fields for nesting birds and hidden fawns before he mowed. And he loved his loyal dog Duke, who was always by his side and predeceased him.
Paul witnessed drastic changes, both on Whidbey and in the world, during his 93 years. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “It’s like wrecking your own home.” In 2016, Paul donated a conservation easement to us to keep his property as a haven for wildlife. “I think the world would be a pretty dull place without all of the wild things,” Paul told us.
“Paul wanted to protect the planet, but the only part he controlled was 50 acres in Greenbank.” — Ron Hanson, Paul’s nephew
“Paul was a gentle spirit. Knowing he had permanently protected his property for his wild friends gave him a lot of peace,” said Pat Powell, Land Trust executive director.
He also was humble. He insisted on being anonymous in our article about his easement donation four years ago. “I don’t feel I did anything special,” Paul told us. “To me, it’s something natural to do.”
Please join us in thanking Paul for leaving an enduring natural legacy. He is deeply missed.