Aug. 15, 1923-Jan. 6, 2018
Portola Valley, California
Archaeologist, community volunteer, wife, mother of four and beloved grandmother of six, Agnes Bierman Babcock died peacefully at home, surrounded by her family, on January 6, 2018. She was 94 years old and had been a resident of Portola Valley for the past 60 years. She loved Portola Valley and felt strongly about how special it was and that it be preserved and protected. She gave back to her home town by serving in numerous volunteer posts in town for many years, leading to the running family joke that she had held every volunteer position in the town but mayor and dog catcher.
Ms. Babcock was born August 15, 1923 in Fribourg, Switzerland where her father taught at the University of Fribourg. Both her parents were from the Netherlands, and they continued to speak Dutch at home with their three daughters, a tradition Ms. Babcock continued with her own children. When she was one year old her family moved to Vancouver Island, Canada. It remained her home base for the rest of her childhood. Her father was a professor and she spent each school year living in whatever city he was teaching at the time, but summers were always spent on Vancouver Island. She described it as having the best of both worlds. Ms. Babcock was one of three sisters. Trudy, Agnes and Margaret were best friends and remained very close throughout their lives. During WWII Ms. Babcock tried to enlist in the the Canadian Navy, but at 17 did not meet the age requirement, so instead she worked in the Chart Department of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Yard of the Royal Canadian Navy. She also was a Radio Operator. These jobs were generally open only to Canadian Officers, but due to the shortage of men during the war she was one of the first women to do them.
As was the case with so many young people born in that era, Ms. Babcock’s education was interrupted by WWII. She attended Hunter College and took courses at Columbia University before the war and graduated from UCLA afterwards. She also did her graduate work in Archaeology at UCLA. She was passionate about the field of Archaeology, it combined her love of world civilizations, pre-history with her love of the natural world. She enjoyed the camp-like aspect of the archaeological digs and the adventure of discovery. Ms. Babcock worked on many digs in the Southwest and she is considered one of the pioneer female archaeologists of the area. While doing her graduate studies at UCLA from 1947-1951, she conducted archaeological field work on what is now the China Lake South Range, at Deep Springs, California and at a cave complex now known as Bierman Caves. Subsequently she worked on the Southwest Museum’s excavations at the Stahl Site at Little Lake, California . Her work at Little Lake has been recently cited in a book on Little Lake rock art published this year by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. She visited the area in 2005 at the invitation of the Maturango Museum. She were taken on a tour of her old sites on the South Range as a guest of Russell Kaldenberg, Base Archaeologist, and she was honored at the Society for California Archaeology. The San Bernardino County Museum has published a book on Bierman Caves in her honor.
Ms. Babcock is survived by her devoted husband Dean Babcock. They were married in 1954. In 1958 they moved to Portola Valley where, in 1960, she began her “second career” as a mother. She is survived by her four children: Cecile (Menlo Park), Frank (Bettendorf, Iowa), Carl (Campbell) and Meg (Redwood City); and six grandchildren. She loved being “Oma” to Emily, Christian, Justin, Ben, Katy and Gabrielle. Having four children in four years kept her very busy but she nevertheless found time to be very involved in all her children’s activities and always made time to attend functions in which her grandchildren were involved. She especially enjoyed volunteering her time to teach young people to pay attention and cherish their natural surroundings and in particular teaching them about the early inhabitants of this area. She was an avid tennis player and hiker and loved traveling the world with her husband to see archeological wonders. Ms. Babcock also volunteered for many years at the St. Francis Center in Redwood City and was a member of the Los Altos Garden Club.