On Friday, July 3, 2009, Bobbie Keltner, one of the co-founders of the Kansas Chapter and long-time Sierra Club activist, succumbed to cancer. Bobbie joined the Sierra Club in 1966 while living in California. A few years after moving to Wichita in 1967 she began looking for other members of the Club. At that time all Sierrans living in Kansas were part of the Rocky Mountain Chapter and there was no separate listing of members living in Kansas.
From the first edition of the SouthWind Group newsletter in an article on the formation of the SW Group comes the following:
“….. questions persisted in the minds of a few who decided to search for other Sierra Club members. While two members were diligently trying to obtain a list from the National office, another member, Bobbie Keltner, unknown to the others was successful in securing a partial list of members living in the south central Kansas area.
” The first meeting [of the nascent group] began as a result of a letter sent by Bobbie to attend a program on March 16, 1973 ….. [Those] present showed an interest in meeting again and in organizing a local group. (1)
Bobbie was joined in the effort to form a group by Mike Martin, Warren Gfelter, and a few others in the Wichita area. About this same time George Coggins (first Chapter Chair), Ron Baxter, Nancy Jack and others in the Lawrence area were also thinking of forming a Kansas chapter and a local group. The two groups of individuals joined forces to petition the national Club to become a full-fledged chapter, independent of the Rocky Mountain Chapter. That effort became reality by action of the BOD in 1974 and was effective January 1, 1975.
In April of 1973 Bobbie was elected to the Executive Committee of the Kansas Group (before it became the Kansas Chapter) and a year later was selected as one of three Kansas members as representatives to the newly formed Southern Plains Regional Conservation Committee (SPRCC).
Keltner became Chapter Membership Secretary and Chapter Historian in March, 1975, and retained a strong interest in membership development.
Though Bobbie did not hold many offices in the Group or in the Chapter she was always active and willing to serve the Club where and when she could. Later in her career she developed an interest in trade issues, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and corporate accountability as it related to the interests of the Club and acted as contact person between the national organization and the local group on those issues. From 2002 to the time of her death she was either an elected member of the Southwind Executive Committee (ExCom) or a volunteer chairing issue committees. She and her husband hosted two Christmas holiday parties for the Southwind Group despite her health problems.
Upon learning of Bobbie’s death, Paula Carrell, who is the national Sierra Club’s State Program Director wrote, “Before moving to Kansas, among many other activities in her life, Bobbie was a Senior Girl Scout Leader in California. Among the members of her troop, who Bobbie introduced to backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, was a very grateful Paula Carrell.” Paula went on to say that she believes strongly that Bobbie was a major contributor to setting her on her life path and she “will always remember Bobbie with great fondness.”
Bobbie was an energetic and enthusiastic advocate for the environment and for the Sierra Club. She willing took on tasks with her characteristic cheerfulness. Her hard work and bubbly personality will be sorely missed.
By Tom Kneil, Kansas Chapter Secretary