A flower for Lottie

July 25, 2003

VOORBURG, Netherlands — Next year at the annual convention of the Baha'is of the Netherlands, there will be a rose on an otherwise empty seat, the one traditionally occupied by the late Lottie Tobias.

The National Spiritual Assembly promised the gesture, in a eulogy read at her funeral.

The rose will be a symbolic tribute to the five decades of loving, expert attention paid by Elisabeth Charlotte (Lottie) Tobias to the development of the Baha'i administrative order in her homeland and beyond.

On 25 July 2003 Lottie, 93, died while on her way home to Voorburg from a summer school held in De Poort. More than 350 mourners attended her funeral.

The National Spiritual Assembly, describing her as the "mother" of the Netherlands Baha'i community, pointed out in its eulogy that Lottie herself had always said the Baha'i community was her family.

"She was interested in everyone and followed the progress of her friends' children -- they were her children and so it was very moving that she died in the arms of two of these, now very adult, children."

Lottie Tobias became a Baha'i in 1950 when there were only a few dozen believers in the whole country. She was elected to the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Den Haag in 1952, and in 1957 was elected a member of the first Spiritual Assembly of the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), serving as secretary for the Netherlands.

In 1962 she was elected to the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the Netherlands, and served on that body until 1986. For 24 years she was the secretary.

"Alone, without the help of a secretariat, her only help a typewriter and a table, she performed this work cheerfully and uncomplainingly for all those years in a manner which today still serves as an example," the National Spiritual Assembly said.

"Everything had still to be built up both in the office in the Hague and in the administrative order in the country. In addition most of it had to be done in the evenings after a busy day's work."

Not only was she meticulous in her work as secretary but also as a proofreading member of the editorial team of the "Baha'i Vizier" (a regular publication with scholarly and other articles). To the last moment of her life, she was a member of the national properties committee.

She kept in touch with Baha'is who went to live abroad to assist other communities and gave a warm welcome to newcomers, wrote cards to and visited the sick, and kept up to date with the welfare of others in person and by telephone.

That legendary care for others was in her nature. For years she wrote a column in the "Haagse Courant" newspaper as a counselor on social and legal matters. Her nom de plume was "Raad" (a combination of the words for "advice" and "deed"). She even held a weekly consultation hour for individuals at the newspaper office.

When staff at her newspaper learned of her death, they placed a large display notice commemorating their beloved former colleague.

In a personal eulogy, Jan Sijsling, a Baha'i who had known her more than 50 years, said she had made a great impression upon him because of her reliability, the bond between them deepening as a result of her care not only for the work but everyone as individuals.

Another long time Baha'i friend, Wilco Broekhuizen, said that getting to know her was by observing her actions for she never really spoke about herself.

"The Covenant, loyalty to Shoghi Effendi, the Universal House of Justice, the Hands of the Cause and the Spiritual Assemblies formed the very foundation of her life."

Mr. Broekhuizen said that in consultation she provided clear, personal opinions and solutions but, having heard another point of view, could completely change her opinion.

She possessed an endearing humanity and a sense of humor.

Mr. Broekhuizen recalled once when a meeting was to be held in her flat, somebody said there was a wonderful film on television that evening.

"And it was actually Lottie who proposed we should 'leave the business' and all sit around the TV instead."

Arts and culture were dear to her, and she had begun to paint in watercolors.

In a tribute, the Universal House of Justice said: "Having served with distinction for more than two decades on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Netherlands, as well as on the first Spiritual Assembly of the Benelux countries, she will always be lovingly remembered for her dedication to the progress of the Cause, the upbuilding of its institutions and her tireless endeavors over many years to inspire and encourage all the friends."