SEQUIM — Retired Dr. Eloise Kailin, a Sequim environmentalist whose activism stretched beyond her most recent fight — a successful battle against fluoridation of Port Angeles drinking water — died Saturday of age-related causes at her Sequim-area home, her son, Harvey Kailin, said Wednesday.
The 1987 Clallam County Community Service Award winner, an allergist-immunologist who befriended Rachel Carson during the fight against DDT, was 100.
One of the few women, if not the only one, in her 1943 medical school class, Kailin led the fight against a nuclear power plant on what is now Miller Peninsula State Park in Sequim, fought successfully to upgrade sewage treatment in Sequim, co-founded the Olympic Environmental Council and was the face of the environmental group Protect the Peninsula’s Future.
She fought the fluoridation of Port Angeles’ drinking water beginning in 2003, when it was approved.
She realized success in August 2016 when the City Council reversed itself. The practice was stopped permanently a year later.
Ever the tactician, Kailin favored the city becoming a second-class city before she opposed the proposal, eventually calling it “draconian.”
It was first proposed by the group Our Water! Our Choice!, which she headed, and would have limited residents’ political power.
Voters in 2017 defeated the second-class-city proposal 72 percent to 28 percent.
“She used it as a pressure tool to get the city to relent on the fluoride issue,” said her son, 72.
“When she got what she needed in that respect, she dropped the idea.”
Kailin was born Eloise Whittlesey Kielhorn on Jan. 10, 1919, in New London, Conn., where her father, Coast Guard Capt. Loyd Vineyard Kielhorn, attended the Coast Guard Academy.
She decided to be a doctor at age 11 after discovering medical books he had collected to address his crews’ health while on the high seas.
She took four years of Latin and two years of German in high school to guarantee success in what was then a man’s profession.
“She knew to get into college, she had to be better than anyone else,” he son said.
“So she was better than anyone else.
“She just set her jaw and set her course.”
Married in 1942 to Harvey Kailin Sr., she graduated the next year from George Washington University medical school.
She started practicing medicine in 1947 in Washington, D.C., before she and her family moved to Bethesda, Md., then Chevy Chase, Md.
The couple had three children: Harvey of Sequim; Janet of Port Angeles; and David of Corvallis, Ore.
Her son recalls being 10- or 11-years-old when his mother expressed opposition to smoking being allowed on airplanes.
“It seemed embarrassing to me, because everybody smoked,” Kailin said, recalling the ashtrays he made in shop class.
“For her to come out against what everyone does, she was always doing that.”
Kailin also was personal friends with Rachel Carson, Harvey said.
Carson, who lived in nearby Silver Spring, Md., wrote the seminal 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” about the impact of DDT and other pesticides on the food chain.
“She was fighting pesticides early on,” Kailin said of his mother.
She worked with electromyography, which detects neuromuscular disorders, to test patients’ reactions to chemicals and pesticides such a DDT, he said.
As a “Coast Guard brat,” she had moved regularly from city to city, attending high school in Seattle in the late 30s and learning about Sequim and its “sun belt,” he said.
The family moved the Sequim area in 1971.
“It was based entirely on her recollection,” Kailin recalled.
“We loaded up the moving van, jumped in the 1970 Audi and drove here from Chevy Chase.”
Her political activism grew after she moved to Sequim.
By then in her early 50s, Kailins and her husband became active in the fight against a planned Miller Peninsula nuclear reactor — “very much a collaboration,” her son said — which led in 1973 to formation of Protect the Peninsula’s Future. She was a board member until early this year.
In a Nov. 28, 2010, profile in Peninsula Daily News, retired conservation lobbyist and renewable energy consultant Bob Lynette called her “the matriarch of the Olympic Peninsula’s environmental community since the 1970s, “egoless” and capable of “incisiveness and acute thinking.”
The ceremony at which Kailin shared the 2018 Elanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center with Sara Doyle of Port Townsend will serve as Kailin’s “memorial occasion,” Kailin said.
“She had goals and she wasn’t interested in cameo appearances or awards or anything,” he said.
His mother wrote and edited medical abstracts for more than 30 years and published more than 20 research articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Her last piece was a half-page ad in the Feb. 20 Peninsula Daily News.
She compared the once-common declarations of the DDT’s safety with the “false hope for human betterment” offered by 5G wireless communications and the dangers she saw from electromagnetic radiation.
“I’m not going down without a fight,” she wrote.
“This nasty woman knows how to get things done.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].