Carol Doersch, a dynamic community volunteer who was a leader in efforts to sustain and save the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, died Wednesday of breast cancer, her family said. She was 80.
Mrs. Doersch, who was honored as a Sacramento County volunteer of the year in 1986 and 2008, filled key roles in groups supporting a variety of interests, including children, nature, medical professionals and local history. She was known in volunteer circles as a smart and gracious woman with boundless energy who got things done.
"She was very disciplined and relentless, and she never gave up," said Sandra Smoley, a former county supervisor. "She had a personality that drew you to her. Whenever she asked you to do something, you couldn't say no."
Mrs. Doersch was a longtime champion for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael. She helped found the American River Natural History Association in 1981 to support the center's educational and interpretive activities and served twice as president.
In 2010, as county leaders proposed closing the nature center because of budget cuts, she was a driving force in the association's successful effort to take over the operation. Last year, the ARNHA dedicated a courtyard at the center in her honor.
"She was really one of the pillars of ARNHA," former nature center director Marilee Flannery said. "I called her many times for advice."
The wife of a surgeon, Mrs. Doersch was a former president of the Sacramento-El Dorado Medical Society Auxiliary. She was active in setting up a foundation to finance the group's activities and starting a program to educate children about medical exams.
Besides leading Brownies and Girl Scouts troops, she served on the board of the Tierra del Oro Girl Scouts Council and led fundraising efforts to build Camp Fleming Lodge in the Sierra Nevada. She received the Girl Scouts' highest honor for adult volunteers, the Thanks Badge.
"She was my Girl Scouts leader, and a lot of girls loved her because she did things outdoors," said her daughter, Ann. "They didn't want to sit at home and embroider."
Mrs. Doersch was a past vice president of the Sacramento Pioneer Association. She edited the group's publications and was named 2002 Pioneer of the Year.
Born to Dorothy and Harold Wulff in Sacramento in 1932, she graduated from McClatchy High School and Sacramento Junior College. She married Kemp Doersch in 1951 and left UC Berkeley to live in New York, where she earned an art degree from Hunter College while her husband attended Cornell University Medical College.
They returned to Sacramento in 1962. While her husband practiced surgery for 32 years, she supported their children's activities in the PTA, Boy Scouts and Jesuit High School Mothers Club. She was a vestry member and volunteer at All Saints Episcopal Church in Sacramento.
Mrs. Doersch's husband died in 2007. She took up painting in recent years and was an accomplished watercolorist who had a show of her works last year.
A longtime Carmichael resident, she was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and given two years to live. She outlived the prediction as an active member of the ARNHA, which honored her this month for donating a lifetime total of more than 10,000 volunteer hours to the Effie Yeaw center.
"She was so grateful that she had two more years and was so gracious and positive in every way," said Muriel P. Johnson, a former county supervisor. "She faced this long goodbye with such dignity and taught us all lessons."