Deceased March 9, 2014
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