Katherine with fellow Nixon Foundation board members John Barr, Don Bendetti, Kris Elftmann, and Hubert Perry
News came on Thursday afternoon that Katherine Bogdanovich Loker, who would’ve been 93 in August, died earlier in the day after suffering a stroke at her Oceanside, California home on Saturday morning.
My colleague Cheryl Saremi had talked to her three days before her illness. She’d asked about our ping-pong diplomacy rematch a few weeks ago, which a trip to Boston, all by herself, undoubtedly for Harvard’s commencement ceremonies, had kept her from attending. She said she was deeply sorry that another commitment would keep her away from Bruce Herschensohn’s talk last week, but she promised Cheryl we’d see her soon.
If that day had come, she would’ve called to say she’d be on the Amtrak from Oceanside to Fullerton, all by herself. We would’ve picked her up at the station and brought her to the Library in Yorba Linda, along with a carry-on brimming with discussion items, ranging from Nixon Foundation financial statements and notes she’d received from Tricia Nixon Cox or Julie Nixon Eisenhower to clippings about President Nixon or Sen. Clinton (a rock-ribbed Republican, she especially loved getting and chuckling over mass mailings from Democrats). While going through her agenda items, we might have had an egg salad sandwich and coffee at a little table in the Museum Cafe of the Katherine B. Loker Center. After three rich hours, we’d have put her back on the train to Oceanside.
Thus it was, no doubt, with trustees and staffers at all the institutions she loved and supported in addition to the Nixon Foundation: The University of Southern California, where she was a star runner in the 1930s and of which she is one of the top five benefactors ever; Harvard, alma mater of her late husband Donald, World War II veteran, actor, and businessman; California State University, Dominguez Hills, renowned for its diversity and academic excellence; the California Science Center and Los Angeles Music Center, and the California Hospital Medical Center near downtown LA, where she kept a small apartment that served as her base of operations for attending USC home games and entertaining grandchildren.
One of seven children of Antoinette and Martin J. Bogdanovich, who emigrated from Yugoslavia in 1908, Katherine grew up in San Pedro, where she’ll be buried next Thursday. Her father became captain of his own fishing boat and founded a cannery in 1917; by 1953, it was called StarKist Foods. Donald Loker served as StarKist’s vice president. When the Loker Center opened, providing new offices for the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation, Katherine donated Mr. Loker’s desk for the executive director’s office. Still taped onto a pullout leaf is the plant’s telephone directory (“Fish Room, Plant 1, 202-210″).
Katherine left it there on purpose. She did everything on purpose. Our former chairman, Don Bendetti, who oversaw the design and construction of the Loker Center and White House East Room, soon recognized that there was no detail beneath her attention. Her only requirement was that the project be “just perfect.” Lucky for us, Don thought in the same terms, so that the building, which opened in 2004, is a worthy symbol of her graciousness and style.
Nixon Foundation Chairman Kris Elftmann had also come to know and love her, and he had this to say:
Katherine Loker was a woman of seemingly infinite vision, energy, and drive, with a loving heart singularly focused on leaving the world better than she found it through a near-lifetime of her and her beloved late husband Donald’s discerning philanthropy. As a devoted friend of President and Mrs. Nixon, she participated in countless ways in the protection and extension of his legacy of peace, including by playing the lead role in the establishment of the Katherine B. Loker Center and the White House East Room at the Nixon Library. If her schedule permitted, she never missed an event at the Library. We will miss her laughter, love of politics, and sharp insights about all aspects of our work. A great runner at her beloved USC, she ran a great race for all her years. She was the greatest friend any institution, and any person, could have.
Writes Fred Dent, former Secretary of Commerce and another member of the Nixon Foundation board:
A great lady and a devoted friend of the Nixons who will be sorely missed.
Author and commentator Bruce Herschensohn writes:
She has been such a good friend beyond any measure….She never talked to me about herself but with that happy, almost gleeful and even young expression on her beautiful face, she always talked to me about good things regarding others.
From Nixon Foundation Secretary-Treasurer John Barr:
A truly remarkable lady in so many ways, and always so interesting to spend time with her….Our future board meetings will not be the same. Nothing ever really slowed this woman down.
Katherine leaves devoted and talented daughters Deborah and Katherine, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, of all of whom she was infinitely proud. Our hearts also go out to her longtime adjutant, Evelyn Goodall.
A viewing will be held next Wednesday, July 2 from 3-9 p.m. at McNerney’s Mortuary and Chapel, 570 West 5th Street, San Pedro; funeral services will be on Thursday, July 3 at 10:30 a.m. at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, 870 West 8th Street, San Pedro. Katherine’s family invites donations in her memory to any of the institutions with which she was associated.
Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.