“Emil was the MC5’s first roadie, but he was way more than that. Emil, Bob Derminer, and artist Gary Grimsaw formed the original beatnik movement in Lincoln Park … Emil was the first to take a serious interest in the band, and he helped us in any way he could. He took photos, recorded our shows, shot early movies of us, and became a lifelong friend.” – Wayne Kramer (from his autobiography, The Hard Stuff)

Emil Robert Bacilla Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan on Groundhog Day, 1945 to Elizabeth “Betty” Bacilla (Drotos) and Emil Bacilla Sr., both first-generation Americans, the children of immigrants from Hungary and Romania.

In the mid-sixties, Emil’s best friend from high school picked up a microphone, and Emil picked up a camera. He spent the next few years documenting Detroit during one of its most vibrant and most chaotic periods. His photos have been featured in documentaries, books, magazines, photo exhibitions, and even his hometown’s local history museum. 

In 1970, he moved to Sebastopol. Soon after, he met his partner for life, Suzanne (Large). They were married on Independence Day, 1973, and she gave birth to their only child together, a daughter, Sari (Flowers) in October, 1974. Along with Emil’s son from a previous relationship, Zachariah (Sartin), this completed his small family.

Emil and Suzanne have lived happily in Sebastopol for the past fifty years where he never stopped taking photographs and obsessing over music. He worked for the county. She worked for the post office, and both were grateful for and dedicated to their unions.

He loved his family. With no real example of marriage or fatherhood, he figured it out himself and was completely devoted to his wife, children, and grandchildren. His generosity and loyalty were boundless. With him on our side, we were never alone. It is going to be very quiet without him, and he is going to be missed. 

He is survived by his wife Suzanne, his son Zach, and his daughter, Sari. Also, by his children-in-law Diana (Sturm) Sartin and Daniel Flowers, and his grandchildren Jeremy Sartin and Abigail Flowers.

Emil had a deep faith in humanity. He believed that when people come together to support each other, everything is possible. Emil’s family would like to extend their gratitude to the many people who have provided love and assistance to his family during the past difficult year, including, but not limited to, Jessie Holtrop, Tom and Anne Abrams, Kenny and Linda Rosen, and the wonderful teams at Kaiser Santa Rosa, and Hospice by the Bay. 

In lieu of flowers, Emil’s family asks that you get involved. Create or support live art in some way. Go see live music (when it is safe again to do so). Support a fundraising campaign for a film or an art project. Kick out some jams, My Friends. 

If you would like to make a donation in his honor, Planned Parenthood, Jail Guitar Doors, the Detroit Artists Workshop, and the Southern Poverty Law Center are all good choices.

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