William Gerald Baker (Bill) came into this life on November 2, 1932 in Stilwell Oklahoma, the youngest of two sons born to Robert Lincoln Baker and Ola Mae Baker. He spent his boyhood in that area, mostly enjoying the outdoors with friends, fishing the lakes and creeks or exploring the limestone caves in and around that area, to name a couple. He also talked about taking in a movie occasionally at the theater in town, many of which were some of the "monster movies" of the time. One in particular was a humorous recollection in having seen the previews to "The Mummy's Tomb" after which he and his pal, Sweet Pea McGee had to travel home at a dead run in case "The Mummy" was lurking somewhere along the route.
He came to have a love for different kinds of music and was accomplished in playing the piano and the guitar. While in high school during the late forties, he and three of his friends formed a group they called "The Stilwell Playboys" for whom he played the piano. While they practiced at his parents' home on Chestnut Street, cars would often park around the house, apparently enjoying the music. He graduated from Stilwell High School in 1950 where he had been a starting offensive lineman on the varsity football team.
After high school, he attended Northeastern College (now Northeastern University) in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He became a member of the Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity and eventually became the president of the Student Senate. He had a dual major in Chemistry and Biology, obtaining Bachelors' Degrees in both. Northeastern College was also the place where he met Jo Anne Skelton who also attended school there and she caught his interest, to say the least. They were eventually began a life of marriage on December 26, 1953 which would last over 63 years. Out of this union came two sons, a daughter, and seven grandchildren.
After college, he entered the work place as a chemist for Phillips Petroleum Company, working in a refinery in the Texas panhandle (Borger area). In 1959, he took a similar position with Callery Chemical Company in Muskogee Oklahoma enabling Bill and Jo Anne to move to an area very close to both their families. Unfortunately, Callery would close its doors some two years later, necessitating a move to Alvin, Texas and a job with Monsanto. By now, he had a wife and three kids to enjoy the outdoors with him and this family enjoyed numerous camping and road trips. Also by this time, he had become a superb tennis player and played many weekends with Larry Holdorff and his daughter Ruth who were about to become the father-in-law and wife of Nolan Ryan, a native of Alvin, just beginning his career as a pitcher with the New York Mets.
In 1969, he branched into a different capacity in the petroleum industry, taking a job as an industrial salesman with Union Oil and moving to the Chicago, Illinois area. One year there saw him transferred to Memphis, Tennessee where he continued a career in industrial sales, dealing with many companies whose products moved up and down the Mississippi on barges. Bill was very suited to what he was doing and his humble, likeable, unassuming demeanor was described as "selling products with a velvet hammer".
His career took him to other companies and positions but, eventually, he could retire and lived for a short time in Portland Oregon, after which, Bill and Jo Anne moved to Georgetown, Texas which they both liked very much and where they probably would have stayed had their grandkids not been moved to eastern Oklahoma. To be closer to them they once more pulled up stakes and moved to Tahlequah, Oklahoma where they both resumed going about the business of spending as much time as possible with their grandkids, Among other things, there was a regular date in the summer to rent a cabin at Lake Tenkiller as well as a boat and having an outstanding time on the lake.
Unfortunately, by this time, Parkinson's Disease had advanced (it had been diagnosed around 2007) to a point where it was beginning to limit the possibilities of what Bill could do, although he pushed the envelope in doing all that he was physically able. Eventually, he was rendered nearly immobile but that didn't stop the grandkids from coming to him, in particular his oldest grandson, Gareth William Baker, shared with Bill a touching and very special bond and came many weekends by himself to help in the care of "Doda" (somehow, this came to be what Bill was called by grandkids).
On November 18, 2017, Bill could stave off the disease no longer and began his trip Home from his own living room, surrounded by his wife, two of his kids, all seven grandkids, and a close family friend (more like a family member, though). He left this life as he had lived it.....quietly with no fanfare and surrounded by those who shared a deep love for a man with no ego who ambled through life trying to set the very best example for his kids, loving and doing for them all he could and putting his grandkids at the center of a universe that revolved around them. He is and will always be sorely and painfully missed.
Published on November 21, 2017