Random thoughts of a Maidenhead man

Tribute to Dad - Bob Baker

Posted in Family on Friday 26 October 2012

Here's my tribute to my Dad, who died on Friday 19th October 2012.

August 2011 at Joanna and Peter's wedding

Robert Alfred Baker was born on 3rd April 1939 to Alf and Joan Baker. Bob, as he became known, was their first son - Michael was to come along 7 years later. Alf and Joan lived in Northolt and stayed there throughout their married life and it was here Bob spent his childhood playing cricket and football in the street.

Brother Michael (left) and Bob at Fowey, Cornwall in 1953

Dad went to Ealing Grammar School and left there to work as a quantity surveyor. This was the start of a long working career which was to last 40 years.

His work life was interrupted by a short spell in the Army when he was called up for national service in 1958. He joined the Pay Corps because of his talent with figures. He was based in Larkhill, Wiltshire. I believe it was in the Army that Dad developed his preference for a smart appearance, neatly pressed trousers and ironed handkerchiefs!

Although later in life he was not particularly religious, at this time Dad attended Oldfield Baptist Church where he was a drummer in the Boys Brigade. It was here that he met and courted a girl named Ann Rabbitt. On 23rd September 1961 they married at the same church, it was the first wedding ceremony in the newly rebuilt church building.

Outside Greenford Baptist Church at the wedding, 1961

In 1960 he began working for Philips Lighting as a clerk. This was the start of a 37-year career with Philips. He moved to sales and had a number of roles, eventually becoming National Sales Manager. His job took him all over the country, including a trip I remember him taking me on when I was young in the Channel Islands - we flew in a small plane between the islands. As the leader of a successful sales team, Dad was also responsible for sales conferences, some of which involved travel to places such as Bali and Singapore. Mum went on some of the trips too, and they enjoyed them immensely. I remember him coming back with many photographs and stories of his adventures including one foreign trip when, as a surprise for a colleague they made a presentation which included a rented donkey! I think these were some of the happiest times for Dad. Despite his job taking over much of his week because of the long hours and travel from home to Croydon each day, he thrived on the hard work and developed many life-long friendships.

I arrived in 1969 and by then we were living in Eastcote. When I was young I have many happy memories of Dad. Like when I played double bass in a Saturday morning orchestra and he used to pick me up, but he always came early so he could listen to us play. Like helping me build my Airfix Concorde which I still have. Like our summer holidays in Cornwall and flying a kite on the beach - it always seemed to be sunny then!

In 1983 we moved to Ruislip to a house with a lovely garden. It was here that Dad developed his love of gardening which he had learnt from his parents. Dad and Mum tended to the garden for countless hours and it was this garden that was the venue for many celebrations over the years including Alf and Joan's 50th wedding anniversary in 1987. Dad made a lovely speech, as he often did at social occasions. His sales role at work meant that he made many presentations and he had become known as a competent and entertaining speaker.

In 1997 he retired from Philips and turned his attention to other activities including cookery and golf which he enjoyed at Northwood Golf Club. He became captain of the Rabbits section.

Passing on his golf skills to another generation

He also joined the Ruislip & Northwood Rotary Club and was honoured to be asked to be President for a year in 2005-6. In his Presidential year he introduced and organised the Hillingdon Rotary Young Chef competition where secondary schools compete to produce the tastiest healthy meal.

Dad began helping an Abbeyfield sheltered home for the elderly and assisted them with a number of activities including a building project.

He also became involved with the 114 (Ruislip & Northwood) Squadron ATC (Air Training Corps) and for 6 years he was the Chairman of the Civilian Committee. His activities included fund raising, joining the squadron at parade nights, controlling finances and helping with publicity. I suspect this contact with the forces reminded him of his time in the national service. He seemed to really cherish being part of the ATC. During this time he was also encouraged to join the Middlesex Wing Executive Committee.

I married Miriam and in 2000 Dad became a grandfather for the first time. I remember handing our daughter Emily to Dad when she was just a few hours old. He had a look of love in his face and tears in his eyes. In 2002 Ben came along and became his second grandchild.

Dad and Ben, 2004

Dad loved playing bowls and football in the garden with the kids. And he was always the one on the floor with them playing with Lego at Christmas! Him and Mum took the children on day trips and loved having them to stay. Dad took great pride in their successes, whether at school or elsewhere.

Dad loved making people laugh...

...especially his grandchildren

Dad was also fond of dancing and enjoyed being a part of a local dancing club. Mum and him spent many happy hours floating around the dance floor doing a waltz, foxtrot or quickstep and was pleased to have once met Anton du Beke and Erin Boag.

In September 2011 Mum and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a lovely party attended by over 100 friends and relatives, many of whom were at their wedding 50 years earlier. Once again he delivered a heart-warming speech, after which Mum and Dad danced.

Delivering his speech at the 50th wedding anniversary party

Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010. At first there were no symptoms and he carried on just as before, putting everything in to life and getting lots out of it. He was looked after by a superb team at Mount Vernon Hospital. But gradually, as the cancer spread, he lost mobility and became more ill.

He realised the end was near and I made it known to him how thankful I was to him for everything he had done for me and others and how much I loved him. He told me he loved me too. He was cared for at home until the end by Mum who has been amazingly loving and caring to him for over 50 years.

Dad was a thoughtful, considerate, generous, loving, talented and kind man whose efforts touched many lives and organisations. He was full of joy and always quick witted. He was my rock and his relationship with my Mum was inspirational. I have a lifetime of treasured memories and I am so thankful to him.

Me and Dad at Dorney Lake for the Olympics, July 2012

I was very lucky to have him as my father.

Rest in peace Dad. x

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