Barbara Bilkert ’47 Mulder and Donald Mulder ’48

Barbara Bilkert ’47 Mulder and Donald Mulder ’48

Donald Mulder
Born in Hospers, Iowa, his family later moved to Blissfield, Michigan, where his father, Cornelius, had taken a position as School Superintendent. Early on, Don began to display a great love for athletics and friendly competition that would last throughout his life. He lettered in several sports at Blissfield High and then enrolled at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. His studies were soon interrupted by WWII where he served in the Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant flying P-51 Mustangs on reconnaissance missions over Germany. At war’s end, and upon returning to Hope, he distinguished himself as a talented and competitive leader of Hope’s championship “Flying Dutchman” basketball team. By his senior year he was chosen to be team captain for Michigan’s All State team and later, in 1972, was honored by the NCAA for his achievements both on the court and professionally. At Hope, he met his wonderful wife-to-be, Barbara, and they were soon married. From there, with the help of his G.I. Bill, he and “Bobbe” left for Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Medical School. There he came under the influence of Dr. Alfred Blalock and embraced the exciting new world of cardiac surgery. After three years of residency at Hopkins, he came to the newly opened UCLA Medical Center to finish his residency under the esteemed Dr. Bill Longmire. There he conducted important research in the use of cardiopulmonary bypass and devised and tested the first bypass pump oxygenator used at UCLA. He would later serve as chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery from 1976-82, as acting chair of the Department of Surgery in 1987-88, and as vice chair of Surgery from 1988 until his retirement in 1991. He continued as an emeritus member of the teaching faculty until 2005. Don loved surgery as well as the satisfaction of teaching and mentoring. He loved the whole educational atmosphere at UCLA full of enquiry, excitement, vitality, and, what he called, “the bushy-tailed new interns coming down the pike.” He also kept a lifelong interest in college sports and admired John Wooden as he led the Bruins to 10 NCAA national championships. Besides his service to UCLA, Don regularly offered his surgical skills to the VA Hospital. He was a faithful supporter of his alma mater and it’s mission, serving on Hope’s Board for many years. He also was a faithful member of the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica and served on many lay Boards and committees over more than 60 years. As father to his four children, Michelle, Bruce, Mark, and Scott, he enjoyed taking the family on many special vacations. He loved the outdoors and instilled in all of his children a great appreciation for nature’s simple gifts. From walking outside to admire a sunset, to floating down the Snake River with a fly-rod in hand, he enjoyed it all with the same upbeat enthusiasm, joy and appreciation. Over the years he loved having his family and their friends around his home table for conversations and laughter. He modeled a life of kindness, generosity, optimism, and humor. He inspired excellence and hard work, but always with a twinkle in the eye and a crisp and ready wit. His memory will be cherished and his presence deeply missed. Donald passed away peacefully at his home with his loving family present. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Barbara, his son Scott and his wife Laura with their two children Nathaniel and Kate, his eldest son Bruce, his “favorite daughter” Michelle with her husband Jack, and his sister, “Pinks” Dudley.

Barbara Bilkert ’47 Mulder
“Bobbe,” as she was known to all, had an uncommon childhood. Born to American missionaries, Henry and Ann Bilkert, in Basra, Iraq, in 1925, she and her twin sister Ginny, along with their other siblings, would spend their early years in the distant world of pre-oil Arabia. In the spring of 1939, just months before the outbreak of WWll, the family made the long journey home to America traveling through the Middle East, Europe, and finally England where they boarded the Queen Mary for their final leg to New York. There, amidst the joy of the World’s Fair, she would say good-bye to her parents as they returned to the mission field in Oman and she and Ginny went on to Northfield School for Girls in Massachusetts. From Northfield the “twins” would attend Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where they flourished in the excitement of campus life and Bobbe became the feature editor of the school newspaper. There she also met a handsome P-51 pilot, back from saving the free world to finish his studies. His name was Don Mulder . she decided he was a keeper. They were soon married and moved to Baltimore where Don attended John Hopkins Medical School and Bobbe worked as a social worker. In 1955 an offer from the Cardiac Surgery Center at the newly opened UCLA School of Medicine in Los Angeles lured them westward in an old car, towing not only a makeshift trailer, but two young children, Michelle and Bruce, and a third, Mark, comfortably baking in the oven. A fourth child, Scott, would arrive in 1959 to round out the clan and so began the unlikely adventure of a missionary’s daughter from Basra and an up and coming heart surgeon from Hospers, Iowa, raising four kids of their own in 1960s Los Angeles! Through the years and through the life they built together, she lived always with a brightness, a humor, a curiosity, and a love that was endearing to all. Always ready for a good story and a hearty laugh, she loved people and was loved by them. Her generosity and hospitality came so naturally for her there was no other way. Bobbe passed peacefully with her family around her just eleven short days after her husband and best friend of seventy years, Don, passed. She was also preceded in death by her son Mark, and is survived by her son Scott and his wife Laura with their two children Nathaniel and Kate; her daughter Michelle and her husband Jack; and her son Bruce. A Celebration of Life for both Don and Bobbe will be held at the First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th Street, Santa Monica on June 30th at 2pm.

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