A Photographic Memorial
(March 29, 1958  Keokuk, IA – Sept. 29, 2006  Glendale, AZ)


July 1999


     “Doug and Gail Acker have been in the club since 1985, having earlier purchased a couple of bonsai from a north Phoenix nursery.  Among Doug’s visible services to the PhxBS have been yearbook editor (1990-95), Vice President (’91-93), President (’93-95), and Workshop Chairman (1995-2006).  Gail was club Librarian (1989-90), and both have put in many behind-the-scenes hours, in addition to maintaining a diverse collection of trees.”
                                                                                                                               — from Designing Dwarfs in the Desert (1997), pp. 65-66

     Gail died accidentally in March 1999.  At the American Bonsai Society Convention held in Tucson at the end of that April through early May, an elephant food (Portulacaria afra) bonsai she and Doug had worked on (below) would win the Bonsai Clubs International President’s Award.

Doug would go on to serve as the Valley Garden Center President (2002-05).  And he would be quoted along with the Phoenix Bonsai Society[‘s web site] as a source for information on grandmaster John Naka‘s life in the Los Angeles Times‘ May 2004 obituary.

Doug and Gail hosted at least one informal club get-together at their home during each summer.  Attending members were impressed by the couple’s collection of trees in training or specimens undergoing transition in a growing bed.  The fine bonsai were displayed individually on plinths around their yard and pool, or on the several workbenches near the house.  We also remember feasting on the spread of Japanese food prepared for us by Gail and her mother.  This included sushi and sometimes even some sake.  The couple also kept a collection of tiny mame pots.

Doug will also be remembered for his painstaking wiring of trees to shape them, particularly larger junipers which might require an entire weekend’s worth of patience and dedication.  In addition to having several trees at all club displays, he freely shared his knowledge of the art in club demonstrations, or informal conversations at meetings, shows, collecting trips, or other times.

Doug is survived by his parents, Ron and Joan Acker; his sisters, Cressa Nelson and Lisa McNurlin; one grandmother, one niece and three nephews.  A memorial service celebrating his life was held on Wednesday, October 4, 2006 at the Phoenix Valley Garden Center, where our club meets.  “Many club members were there to say good-bye.  The nephews and other relatives brought in some of his trees for display and his sister gave a eulogy.  Ernie Hasan of the club spoke and told us many funny things about the times he and Doug had had together.  There was food inside afterwards and everyone was invited to Doug’s parents’ home for dinner.  We said good-bye, but we will miss him for a long, long time.”




March 1990 Club Trip to California.
Back row: Elsie Andrade, Penny Schneck, Nona DiDomenico, Bill Mooney, Doug Acker, Jim Claycomb, Unidentified Member (Laurie Karcher??)
Front row: Chuck Wiegand, Leroy Fujii, Gail Acker, Max Miller.  (All photos courtesy of Max Miller)


Max and Doug at October 1993 Workshop with Ernie Kuo.
(A b&w copy of this photo can be found on pg. 73 of Designing Dwarfs in the Desert,
Up Through the First Thirty-Five Years of the Phoenix Bonsai Society


March 1995 California Trip at John Naka’s.
. Back row: Elsie Andrade, Wayne Tall, Derek Tall, Doug Acker, Max Miller, Penny Schneck, Marty Bond.
Front row: Marybel Balendonck, Bev Tall, Joan McCarter, Gail Acker, Alice Naka, John Naka, Ernie Kuo.


Doug and Leroy at August 1996 Workshop with Roy Nagatoshi at the Valley Garden Center.


Doug with Ben Oki, David Meyer and a previously landscape-sized olive in April 1999 at the ABS Convention in Tucson.


Doug in July 1999 with Ben Oki and Leroy’s Olive at the Huntington Botanical Garden, where Ben is curator of bonsai.


Doug in October 2000 Workshop with Ben Oki and an unidentified participant.


March 2003 California Trip, Doug with Ben Oki and Frank Goya in Frank’s Backyard.


March 2005 California Trip, at the Hisayasu’s.
Back row: Bus Driver, Bill Parker, Doug Acker, Cheryl Sykora, Bill Welbes, Ken Roberts, Carol Roberts, Anthony Marshall.
Front row: Ken Jones, Joan McCarter, Mike Magee, Teri Moodie, Don Moodie, Bruce Hisayasu, Yaeko Hisayasu, Shirley Miller, Max Miller.


March 2006 California Trip.  (Photo also submitted for this project by Jamie Sims.)
Left to right: Doug Acker, Frank Goya, Don Moodie (back turned), and Ben Oki.
We are in the process of getting photos of some of Doug’s other trees.  These will be posted here as soon as they are available.
(Information for the above from The Arizona Republic obituary, Oct. 3, 2006; e-mails from Marcia Colliat, Max Miller, and Jamie Sims;
and this editor’s fond recollections.)