Baker, John William, St. Louis, Michigan


Passed away at his home, April 22, 2015 after a 3 year battle with liver cancer. Age 92 years. John was born March 7, 1923 in Grand Blanc, MI the son of Herbert and Lillian, on the Baker family farm. His father died when he was sixteen. With his brother Herb; John continued to cultivate the family farm until his college graduation. John graduated from Grand Blanc High School and completed a 2 year program at Michigan Agricultural College. After farming for a year he returned in the winter of 1945 to enroll in a newly created 4 year Cooperative Extension Program. While in college he was a member of Farmhouse Fraternity and often lived and worked at the livestock barns. He had many fond feelings for some of his professors and their wives who extended meals and hospitality. John graduated from the just newly named Michigan State University in June 1949 and married his college sweetheart Jane Danforth of Durand the next day. One week later he began his career with Cooperative Extension as 4-H Agent in Gratiot County. 4 years later he became extension director, a position he held until his retirement in 1979. It was a busy time for extension and one of his goals was to give farmers the most recent research based information to increase yields and production. His educational seminars were very popular. He also planned and implemented learning workshops for farmers with travel experiences. This winter event grew with popularity every year. John was an original developer of Rainbow Lake and instrumental in the creation of the Gratiot County Fair for Youth; the first being held on the grounds of Alma College. John farmed throughout the years; an endeavor he continued after retirement. He always had a few beef cattle saying "Just to keep me busy." He bred and sold sheltie puppies as another retirement activity. He was a current member of Alma Rotary and a past president of Ithaca Rotary. He considered himself a lifelong learner. He obtained his Master's Degree from Michigan State University in 1956 and continued to love to learn. He became an avid reader and was very knowledgeable about American history, particularly the Civil War. He remained a faithful MSU sports fan and held season football tickets for 48 years. He enjoyed the outdoors particularly hunting and fishing with Jeff. He was an avid golfer, passing the sport onto his sons and grandchildren. John and Jane traveled to Florida in the winter for over 30 years but their hearts never left Gratiot County. They were frequently found at their grandchildren's sporting events and often helped with 4-H projects. Most recently his true joy was family. His grandchildren and great grandchild brought laughter and a sparkle to his eye. John was preceded in death by his parents, sisters; Dorothy Reaud and Betty Rieman and youngest son, Jim Baker. He is survived by his wife of 66 years Jane Baker, son Jeff Baker (Sue Hull) of St. Louis, and their children; Nora Perry (Nick) of Burr Oak, MI, Cody (Lindsay and daughter Sydney) of Owosso, John Howard (Tonya Peet and daughter McKenzie) of St. Louis. Also surviving are his daughter-in-law Lori Baker of East Lansing and children; Jami of Lansing and Dustin Baker of Washington, DC and also his brother Herb Baker of Durand. Funeral Services will be held on Monday, April 27, 2015 at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church, St. Louis, with Pastor George Showers officiating. Burial will take place at Riverside Cemetery, Alma. Visitation will be held on Sunday, April 26, 2015 from 5-8 p.m. at Smith Family Funeral Homes, St. Louis. John's love of agriculture directed his life's path as did his love of children. He often said Gratiot's best crop was its children and was particularly fond of young 4-H'ers. Memorials may be made to the Michigan 4-H Foundation c/o MSU Extension, 219 N. State St., Alma, MI 48801. This is an endowment to continue 4-H within the county; or to a charity of the donor's choice. Online condolences can be sent to www.smithfamilyfuneralhomes.com.