Amherst Magazine

John H. Baker '51

Deceased March 9, 2014

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50th Reunion book entry

In Memory

My friend John Baker died from cancer on March 9, 2014, at his Cleveland home. He was 83. John came to Amherst from Long Island, majored in geology and sang in the glee club. Afterwards, he sang with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, retiring with an ovation after 48 years in December 2012. Then, even as disease weakened his voice, John sang with a small group and hoped to do more.

From 1952 to 1954, he was a reserve officer on a destroyer escort out of New York. His captain urged him to become regular Navy—high praise. John declined.

In 1953 he married Nancy Rueckert (MHC ’52). They settled in Cleveland, raising two children, Thomas ’79 and Anne ’82. While getting an M.B.A. from Case-Western, John began a varied and successful career in marketing and management. His last job (his favorite) was as director of the executive M.B.A. program at Cleveland State University from 1982 until his retirement in 1996.

Nancy died of cancer in 1978. Four years later, John married Kathy Smith, who survives him. Kathy has three children from a prior marriage. For years, all of their blended families—18 people and counting—shared an oceanside summer rental for a week. The families bonded. At John’s memorial service, Kathy’s teenage grandson choked up as he eulogized John.

From 2001 to 2003, John and Kathy served in the Peace Corps in Botosani, Romania. John consulted and Kathy taught English. Together, they helped set up a shelter for abused women. They made Romanian friends, seeing them on their European trips after the Peace Corps.

Throughout his Cleveland years, John volunteered for his liberal Protestant church, social causes and the Democrats. At his death, he was co-secretary of the Class of 1951.

Phil Alexander ’51

50th Reunion

51 John Baker.jpgSeems like only yesterday I was writing my "letter to the class" for Bill Maloney's 35th reunion book. It was kind of a chronology of my life to that point, listing my growing up in Manhasset, Long Island, my brief stint in the Navy, marriage and move to Cleveland in 1955, two children in1957 and1960, my MBA degree at CWRU in 1960, early career in advertising and management consulting, the loss of my parents in the early '70s, my wife's cancer and death in 1978, and my remarriage in 1982.

Looking back, those years now seem pretty much like ablur. The fifteen years since have been the happiest of my life...

- Kathy and I were virtual newlyweds in 1985; now we've been married almost 18 years.

- Our family has added two daughters-in-law, two sons-in-law and seven grandchildren.

-We've moved from suburban Cleveland Heights to a Lake Erie lakefront home in the City of Cleveland.

- I retired from my position as Director of the Executive MBA program at Cleveland State Unive1s1ty and nave settled 1nto a life of part-time consultancy and more than part-time volunteering.

- I retired from the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and then un-retired last year in time to sing in two performances at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival.

- The family started a tradition of every­ one getting together for a week in the summer - sixteen family members came to our eleventh annual gathering in August, 2000.

- Kathy and I began an annual program of discovering different51 John Baker 2.jpg parts of the U.S. and Canada by car; our first trips three have taken us to (1) Nebraska and the Dakotas, (2) New Hampshire, Maine, and Nova Scotia, and (3) Texas and New Mexico. We haven’t decided which direction we'll go next. What a great country we live in!

- We traveled to Fiji and Guatemala to visit two of our daughters during their Peace

Corps assignments, and to Germany for one of our son’s wedding.

Today, in the fall of 2000, our lives are full. The country's economic prosperity has been good to us. We're kicking around some ideas on how we might spend some of the time we have left - and looking forward to the fiftieth reunion and some great new memories.


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