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Growing up in a comfortable family of cultured diplomats, Richard Bakker experienced culture shock when his family return home to the Netherlands in summer of 1939 from a posting to Britain just in time to "welcome" the invading Nazi troops.
The family lived near the Jewish section of Amsterdam, while he was busy learning Dutch since his earlier schooling had been in English; he also picked up Hebrew from his neighbors. He once told a friend of his Jewish friends "all my friends were Jewish and they were all killed by the Nazis."
Father Bakker entered the seminary when he was very young and remained with 17 others for his ordination. As a member of African Mission Fathers he fully expected to be posted overseas to the missions. His facility with languages determined otherwise; he was assigned to teach French and Greek in the seminary in Holland. He had served briefly in the Air Force of the Netherlands immediately following ordination.
He came to Boston, actually Dedham with a temporary assignment to teach at the SMA seminary then in Dedham. He never left the archdiocese except for vacations, usually to his native Holland, or on a jaunt to Europe with his brother, Ambro also an SMA priest.
When the seminary closed, Father Bakker became an assistant at St. Joseph Parish in Malden and served there for more than two decades. When he retired he lived in residence on the other side of the city at Immaculate Conception rectory.
He was always a soft spoken man, yet had great stories about his life. Father William Minigan of St. Joseph, Malden said "I never heard him raise his voice, except once when he was reacting to an anti-Semitic remark by someone." Father John Mulloy echoed those same sentiments adding that he "was a good friend to me" and from reports to many in the Malden community. Father Bakker also assisted at St. Raphael, Medford. Of the 55 years of his priestly life, more than 40 were spent in service to us in the archdiocese.
Father Bakker died in Denmark on Sept. 5 during a jaunt with Ambro. His funeral Mass was celebrated in Amsterdam on Sept. 12.
On Sept. 18 at 10:00 a.m. there will be a Memorial Mass at Immaculate Conception Church, Malden.