For the past 20 years, Paul Bakker and his wife, Margery, spent their winters in Mesa, Ariz., where he was the unofficial “park pastor.” Bakker preached his last sermon, “A Comforting Promise for the New Year,” on January 10. It was based on Isaiah 43: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Bakker claimed that promise just a few weeks later on February 5 when he died of leukemia at the Hospice of the Valley in Mesa. He was 86 years old.
Paul Edward Bakker was born and raised on a farm in north central Iowa. After graduating from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1954, he served eight Christian Reformed congregations: Plainfield CRC in Rockford, Mich.; New Holland (S.D.) CRC; Faith CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Sully (Iowa) CRC; First CRC in Rock Valley, Iowa; Second CRC in Byron Center, Mich.; Bethel CRC in Oskaloosa, Iowa; and Luverne (Minn.) CRC.
A very personable man who always had a quick joke or story to tell, Bakker was well-liked in all of the churches he served. His motto, “You always leave while they still want you to stay,” meant that he led each church for only four to five years. Bakker also served on numerous church-related committees as well as the Board of Trustees for Dordt College. He was a delegate to synod (the church’s general assembly) eight times. After retiring in 1994, he continued to be active in preaching and pastoral visitation.
In his spare time, Bakker liked to golf and spent many evenings playing cards with friends. Bakker is survived by Margery, his wife of more than 64 years; by their children Arloa and Kurt Harthoorn, Kathleen and Dirk Kroeze, Janet and Harlan Dirksen, Beth and Leon Wassenaar, and Douglas and Lynne Bakker; and by 14 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. Bakker was preceded in death by his grandson, Shane De Jong.