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Obituaries

David Bale, 62; Environmentalist, Animal Rights Activist, Businessman

January 03, 2004|Mary Rourke | Times Staff Writer

David Bale, an environmentalist and animal rights activist, died Tuesday at the Santa Monica Health Care Center. He was 62, and the cause of death was brain lymphoma, according to Carla Morganstern, a family friend.

The husband of the feminist activist and author Gloria Steinem and the father of actor Christian Bale, David Bale was a humanitarian with a longtime commitment to Africa. He served on the boards of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and of World Education Inc. for adult learning programs in developing countries. He was also a board member of the Ark Trust Inc., for raising public awareness of animal protection and rights.

"He saw gorillas as icons for their rain forest habitat," Clare Richardson, president of the Gorilla Fund, told The Times on Friday. "He was concerned about preserving the gorillas and their natural home."

Born in South Africa, the only child of a Royal Air Force captain, Bale was raised primarily in England. He worked as a commercial pilot for British Airways, and ran his own commuter airline in England for a time. He also imported skateboards and jeans from Asia for sale in England.

His interest in endangered species began in childhood, Steinem said in an interview with The Times on Friday. "As a boy growing up in England, he was sent to boarding schools. He felt abandoned," she said. "After that, he always identified with others who were vulnerable or in need of help."

Friends recalled Bale's organizing his New York neighbors to provide water for the city's birds during heat waves. In Manhattan Beach, he worked to prevent the destruction of trees that were to be cut down when houses were demolished as part of a real estate development.

Bale met Steinem, co-founder of Ms. magazine, at a political benefit in Los Angeles in 1999. They married in 2000, in a Cherokee ceremony in Oklahoma. The service was held at sunrise in a friend's yard where the air was scented by cedar smoke. It was conducted in English and Cherokee.

Bale, who considered himself a feminist and raised his four children as a single parent, had no problem with Steinem's visible public role.

"I actually sometimes introduce myself as Mr. Steinem," he once told Barbara Walters when she interviewed the newlyweds on ABC-TV's "20/20."

Bale often traveled with Steinem when she lectured on college campuses. "Young people loved to talk to David," she said. "They would listen to him and see that it is possible to be yourself and have a relationship."

In addition to Steinem, his third wife, and his son Christian, Bale is survived by three children from his first two marriages -- drama therapist Louise Bale, musician Sharon Bale and computer software expert Erin Kreunen -- and four grandchildren.

At Bale's request no funeral or memorial service is planned by his family. "He disliked funerals and would never go to them," Steinem said. "He'd rather go out to nature and think about the person who had died."

Contributions in his name can be made to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, 800 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30315 (800) 851-0203; or the Ark Trust, 5551 Balboa Blvd., Encino, CA 91316 (818) 501-2275.

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