Local trails champion and Puyallup resident Dr. Ernie Bay died March 18 after complications from a stroke.
The 86-year-old was raised in upstate New York, and received his Ph.D. in entomology from Cornell University after serving in the U.S. Army as a research scientist during the Korean War. He also served with the United Nation’s World Health Organization, helping abate malaria in Haiti, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Bay was professor emeritus from University of California-Riverside, the University of Maryland and Washington State University. After retiring as superintendent of WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center, he was active in the Rails-to-Trails bicycle trail movement, and was instrumental in creating and maintaining the Foothills Trail from Puyallup through Orting to South Prairie.
Bay’s long list of accomplishments and service doesn’t stop there. He served on the Pierce County Conservation District board of directors. He was past president of the Kiwanis Club in Puyallup, and was a member of Toastmasters. He was a frequent contributor to local legislative candidates and civic causes.
Bay served as a president of the Kiwanis Club in the 1980s, and was on the Kiwanis foundation’s Board of Directors until his passing earlier this month.
(Ernie) was always thinking of ways parks, trails and open spaces could be utilized more. He was a forward thinker with a heart for service.
Scott Engle, Kiwanis past president
“Ernie was a tremendous supporter of Puyallup,” said Kiwanis past president Scott Engle. “He was always thinking of ways parks, trails and open spaces could be utilized more. He was a forward thinker with a heart for service. He was a visionary, wanting parks and open spaces to be around forever. Most people want to leave a legacy behind, and Ernie did that. He was always there to lend a hand and was always engaged.”
Bay leaves behind his wife, Ellen, sister Arlene, sons Mike and Steve, daughter-in-law Kathy and granddaughter Victoria.
Bay was always there to lend a hand, said Puyallup Parks and Recreation director Sarah Harris.
He assisted with creating parks including the Puyallup Skate Park, the Puyallup Spray Park and Bradley Lake Park.
“He will be terribly missed by the city,” Harris said. “He was a huge advocate for parks and trails. He was a visionary and always had ideas and solutions. He started courtesy patrols and Families in Motion. He established a lot of different opportunities to engage his neighbors on the trail system. He was a trails champion that always had a smile on his face.”
Ryan Mello, Pierce Conservation District executive director, worked closely with Bay throughout his 12 years of service to the organization’s board of directors.
“It was great for our organization to have the caliber of researcher as Ernie was,” Mello said. “Programs have grown and diversified, and he helped lead the way to keep our district relevant.”
Mello says that often him and Bay would go to meetings where stakeholders were grappling with difficult issues, and Bay was always calm, cool and collected.
I will miss him dearly. We could always count on his steady hand.
Ryan Mello, Pierce Conservation District executive director
“I will miss him dearly,” he said. “We could always count on his steady hand.”
Dixie Gatchel, a fellow volunteer with Bay, calls him the dearest friend she ever had.
“He was such a wonderful and special guy,” she said. “We first met Ernie on the trail, and he had such a kind and welcoming heart.”
Gatchel spent many Friday nights with Bay and his wife watching movies and spending time together.
“He was so thoughtful and kind,” she said. “I’ve had a bad hip replacement and use a scooter to get around, and he always had flags and lights to put on my scooter. He always made sure I had rides to meetings.”
Gatchel says that Bay had a season pass at Crystal Mountain Resort, and frequented his condo in Sunriver, Oregon.
Bay’s celebration of life is scheduled for 10 a.m. May 14 at the Allmendinger Center at WSU Research Center in Puyallup.
Ernie Bay Celebration of Life ceremony
When: 10 a.m. May 14
Where: Allmendinger Center at WSU Research Center, 2606 W. Pioneer Ave.