Gordon McBride Memorial Bench
Back in 2010, Betty Stechmeyer was looking for a way to commemorate her late husband Gordon E. McBride’s fondness for nature. Just in the nick of time, she contributed the final dollars required to match State Coastal Conservancy funding for the purchase of Hare Creek Beach. With her generous help, Mendocino Land Trust was able to complete the purchase of this beach for conservation and public access – a perfect solution for Betty, and a win for the public.
Last summer, members of the Mendocino Land Trust joined Betty Stechmeyer and Gordon McBride’s family to honor his memory with a ceremonial placement of a bench near the beach. Gordon’s Finnish heritage inspired the inscription “Istu alas, ole hyvä” meaning “Please, sit down,” and the bench beckons people to do just that. Made from local cypress wood by Fort Bragg fine woodworker and craftsman Greg Smith, the bench is in a sunny location halfway down the path to the beach.
When reflecting on how best to immortalize the gruff but loveable ‘burly botanist,’ his wife Betty knew the more traditional “in fond memory of” would simply not do. “Oh, I don't think so,” she says with a smile, “but he would have gotten a laugh out of honoring his irreverence.”
Gordon grew up in the Fort Bragg area, and despite the occasional afternoon playing hooky from school to enjoy a day at the beach, he went on to achieve his masters at Humboldt State University and and PhD at Berkeley before becoming a professor at the University of Michigan. He returned to the Mendocino Coast with his wife Betty Stechmeyer, who is pictured below with Gordon’s grandson Dan and son Scott.
A beloved teacher, Gordon taught microbiology at the College of the Redwoods for many years. Later he became a specialist in botanical surveys. With a towering stature and a dry sense of humor, he might use colorful metaphors and unflattering nicknames one moment, then wrap you in a big bear hug the next. Betty remembers him fondly in the garden, a big man crouched in the dirt, delicately planting tiny, fragile seedlings in the ground. Those moments reflected Gordon to her in a nutshell, knowing full well he'd rather be fishing.
Not only did Betty contribute generously, and just in the nick of time, to help purchase Hare Creek Beach, she also volunteers to help with the care and upkeep of this beautiful place. She and Lenny Noack coordinate a Second Saturday Hare Creek Beach workday each month. All three members of Gordon’s family (shown in the photo) have worked and volunteered for the Mendocino Land Trust over the years.