OBITUARY

Willard Derrow Baker

February 4, 1930July 22, 2020
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Willard Derrow Baker, 90, of Lenexa Kansas passed away on Wednesday, July 22nd 2020 in his home at Lakeview Retirement Village.

Bill was born February 4th, 1930 in the family home in Tina, MO to Ralph and Gertrude Baker and sister Kathryn. After graduating from Hale High School in 1947 he helped on the family farm until entering the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri in the fall of 1948. He was a member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma fraternity. While attending college he met Donna Quigley of Gower, MO and their four year courtship began. Bill graduated in 1952 and briefly worked at International Harvester before joining the Air Force as a 2LT and going to pilot training at Vance AFB in Enid, OK. Bill and Donna were united in marriage on Aug 7th, 1955 at Gower Christian Church. In a 28 year Air Force career, Bill accumulated over 8000 flying hours in aircraft such as “Old Shakey”, the C-124 Globemaster. Bill and Donna were transferred to fascinating Air Force assignments around the world: Dover AFB, Delaware 1955-60; Maxwell AFB, Alabama 1960-61; Lajes Field, Azores 1961-65; Travis AFB, California 1965-69; Clark AB, Philippines 1969-71; Vietnam War 1971-72 (Donna and family spent this time in Gower); Scott AFB, Illinois 1972-77; and Yokota AB, Japan 1977-80. Bill retired from the Air Force in 1981 as a full Colonel. During these Air Force years Donna and Bill raised three children, Cindy, Greg, and Kent. As an interesting side note, Bill, Cindy and Greg all share the same birthday, Feb 4th!

After the Air Force, Bill and Donna moved to Johnson County, Kansas (Lenexa and Leawood) where they lived for the remainder of their lives. Bill owned a small business for a few years before joining Donna as a real estate agent. Their love of travel continued, taking them to Germany, France, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, China, Panama Canal, the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii and other areas throughout the continental United States. Bill was active in the Overland Park Masonic Lodge, eventually becoming the Grand Chaplain for the State of Kansas and receiving his 60 year pin. As an active Shriner Bill was an enthusiastic member of the Antique Car Club. Bill also served faithfully for his church in multiple volunteer positions eventually becoming an Elder three times.

Bill loved reading and listening to famous motivational speakers. He was a dedicated follower of Norman Vincent Peale, Stephan Covey, Robert Shuler and Zig Ziglar and their well-worn books, underlined and highlighted, were always within arm’s reach. Bill loved to ballroom dance with Donna and was always impeccably dressed with shined shoes. He had an incredible memory, spouting off people’s phone numbers upon request! As an avid Mizzou, Royals and Chiefs fan he rarely missed a game, watching TV with his miniature Dachshund “Precious” from their family room Lazy Boy. When not watching sports he and Precious loved the veterinarian reality show “The Incredible Dr Pol.” Bill loved to cook and entertain and was famous for his “jubilee of meats” and endless popcorn. He also could mix a mean cocktail and was known for the “Colonel Bill Concoction”, a delicious martini he invented. Deep down he remained a farmer at heart. Of all the Sirius XM radio channels available, his car radio was glued to the farm channel. We all learned more about fertilizers and insecticides than we would ever care to know!

Bill is remembered for his positive outlook, enthusiasm for life, welcoming heart and giving spirit as husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother, friend and military comrade. Bill is survived by 3 children, daughter Cynthia Ann (Randy) Bright of Layton, Utah and their children Garrett and Kaleigh; Gregory Merrill (Julie) Baker of Branson, Missouri and their children Jenny and Matt; Kent Cameron (Patty) Baker of Olathe, Kansas and their daughter Stephanie and her son Braxton and Bill’s very sweet dog and best friend “Precious.” Donna preceded Bill in death on Jun 30th, 2018. They will be buried together at Mt Moriah.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of Bill and Donna Baker to the Alzheimer’s Association to help find a cure for the disease that took Bill’s beloved Donna.

Donation information: www.alz.org/kansascity/; Alzheimers Association-Heart of America Chapter, 3846 West 75th Street, Prairie Village, KS 66208

  • FAMILY

  • Ralph C. Baker, Father (deceased)
  • Gertrude (Bales) Baker, Mother (deceased)
  • Donna Clare Baker, Wife (deceased)
  • Cynthia Ann Bright (Randy), Daughter
  • Gregory Baker (Julie), Son
  • Kent Cameron (Patty), Son
  • Garrett, Kaleigh, Jenny, Matt & Stephanie, Grandchildren
  • Braxton, Great-grandchild
  • "Precious", Sweet Dog & Best Friend

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  • PALLBEARERS

  • Garrett Bright, Pallbearer
  • Kaleigh Sanchez, Pallbearer
  • Julie Baker, Pallbearer
  • Kristina Bright, Pallbearer
  • Stephanie Flavin, Pallbearer
  • Randy Bright, Pallbearer

Services

  • Visitation

    Sunday, August 2, 2020

  • A Celebration of Life Service - Livestreamed by COR

    Monday, August 3, 2020

    VIEW VIDEO

  • Committal Service with Full Military and Masonic Honors - Livestreamed by Mt. Moriah, Newcomer & Freeman Funeral Home

    Monday, August 3, 2020

    VIEW VIDEO

Memories

Willard Derrow Baker

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Patrick Emmett

August 3, 2020

On behalf of the Abdallah Shrine Antique and Classic Cars Unit, we are united in our grief for the loss of such a great friend. Bill was a good friend, too. He was always cheerful and positive. Because of Bill, we held impromptu car shows at the Lakeview Village. Donna was a treasure and we are blessed to have known them both. They now are in the hands of the Grand Architect of the Universe. His spirit will stay with us for as long as we live. So long Bill, see you when the time comes.

Ron and Joan Wilson

July 31, 2020

Dear Kent. We were so sorry to learn of your Dad passing. We so enjoyed visiting with your folks after church at RCA. They were so nice and we enjoyed church activities and parties with them. We hope to see you at church whenever it starts back up again. Ron and Joan Wilson

linda peterson

July 29, 2020

I want to thank Bill for his service to our country. Because of Bill's service to are country and all of our men and women who are taking care of our county we can all live our lives in peace and freedom. All of our VETERANS ARE OUR HEROES FOR OUR COUNTRY. God bless you Bill and thank you for taking care of our country.

Deanna Bayer-Hortin

July 28, 2020

Bill and Donna played a large role in my life as friends and business associates. They were the best of the best, when it comes to people who care and want to help others. Bill is now with Donna and our Heavenly Father. I want to share my heart-felt condolences to the family. Greg, Cindy, & Kent, I hope your wonderful memories of times spent with them are forever saved in your thoughts, to enjoy the rest of your lives.

FROM THE FAMILY

Willard Derrow Baker - Celebrating a remarkable journey. February 4, 1930 - July 22, 2020

FROM THE FAMILY

Husband and Father

FROM THE FAMILY

Grandfather

FROM THE FAMILY

Air Force Officer & Pilot

FROM THE FAMILY

Farmer at Heart

FROM THE FAMILY

The consummate happy, fully-engaged, warm-hearted man loved by all

FROM THE FAMILY

Willard Derrow Baker - Celebrating a remarkable journey. February 4, 1930 - July 22, 2020

FROM THE FAMILY

Husband and Father

FROM THE FAMILY

Grandfather

FROM THE FAMILY

Air Force Officer & Pilot

FROM THE FAMILY

Farmer at Heart

FROM THE FAMILY

The consummate happy, fully-engaged, warm-hearted man loved by all

FROM THE FAMILY

Early years on the farmstead

FROM THE FAMILY

Born February 4th, 1930 in the Baker home

FROM THE FAMILY

Willard, his mother Gertrude, his father Ralph, and his sister Kathryn

FROM THE FAMILY

Willard as a young lad

Biography

On February 4, 1930, I was fortunate to be born in the Baker Home, which has been in the family for 100 years. Other members of the family who lived in the home at the time were my parents, Ralph and Gertrude, my 22 month old sister, Kathryn, and my grandparents, Kate and Charles Baker.

I remember as a child becoming seriously ill with pneumonia. The sheep had gotten out and I wore a heavy sheep skin coat to help in their round-up. It was a cold blistery day and the story goes that I had over heated and then cooled too quickly. My mother hired a neighbor, Mrs. Tom Key, to live with us solely to care for me. There were no miracle drugs in the "old days." She bandaged me with a cloth vest and little by little would slowly remove it.

Kathryn and I rode Trixie, a Shetland pony, to the West and Star schools. At the Star School
I would horse race with the other kids. My pony could outrun almost any horse in the county! Later, I rode two quarter horses, Dixie and Rex and began at an early age carrying water to thirsty threshing crews during the grain harvest.

My father supervised WPA (Work Progress Administration) projects in the area in the late 1930's and farmed with the help of a hired hand. Times were hard and we certainly learned the work ethic. During World War II my father became a full time farmer.

In the late 1940's we bought our first tractor, a Farmall H. I sat on it in the shed, awed by its beauty. Later, if felt I had been born driving Farmall H and M tractors.

In the spring of 1947 after graduation from Hale High school, I remained at home-to help with the farm. I entered the College of Agriculture, University of Missouri in the fall of 1948. My cousin, Herman Baker, and I shared a trailer close to the campus. We brought food from home and had a frozen food storage locker in downtown Columbia. When I became a Junior I pledged the Alpha Gamma Sigma fraternity. That same year I met Donna Quigley from Gower, Missouri, who was a sophomore in the School of Education.

After graduation from the University in 1952, I moved to Kansas City and worked for International Harvester. The Korean Conflict was in full bloom. Knowing I was going to be drafted, I joined the Air Force and was sent to pilot training:
• 2 months preflight training at Lackland AFB, Texas
• 6 months primary training at Columbus Mississippi flying the Piper Cub and the T-4.
• 6 months at Enid, Oklahoma flying the T-28 and the B-25
• Appointed a 2nd Lieutenant and awarded pilot wings in the Class 54-1 in May 1954

What jubilation as I bought my first car, a four door Ford Crestline, and headed for Harlingen FB, Texas for Advanced Pilot Training in the T-29's. By this time, Donna was teaching at the North Kansas City High School. I invited her to visit Harlingen, which she did along with her mother, father and sister, Ann.

My next assignment was Westover, AFB, Massachusetts to fly the C-124 Globemaster. In the spring of 1955 our entire squadron was moved to Dover AFB, Delaware.

On August 7, 1955 Donna and I were married at the Gower Christian Church. Much to Donna's delight, we honeymooned at Niagara Falls and then left Dover for West Palm Beach, Florida for 3 months of C-124 upgrade training.

We returned to Dover AFB for the next six years. Donna would tell you I was never home. I flew the Atlantic and North Atlantic accumulating 6,000 hours flying time and upgrading to aircraft commander, instructor pilot and flight examiner. During this time Donna taught school. In December 1957 she met me as I returned from Thule, Greenland to tell me of the sudden death of my father, Ralph, at the age of 57. We were devastated and returned to be with my mother.

In February, we returned to Dover just in time for the birth of Cynthia Ann, born on my birthday, February 4, 1958. A year later our son, Gregory Merrill was born, again on my birthday.

In the Fall of 1961 I was a Captain and we headed for Lajes Field, Azores, an island in the Atlantic. I was in the Transport Coordination Center (TCC). Because we were stationed on a remote island we qualified for Rest and Recuperation (R&R) travel to the mainland continent. We traveled extensively throughout Europe. To keep my pilot proficiency I was assigned to the C-54 for the R&R passengers. During the summer we would fly to London, England and Rhein- Main, Germany. In the winter we flew to Lisbon, Portugal and Madrid, Spain.

The Azores was a hub of activity for the Air Force. The military transport planes with reciprocating engines landed there for refueling. Even President Kennedy and the presidential plane graced our base for refueling.

In the Summer of 1965 I was assigned to 22 Air Force at Travis AFB, California. The Vietnam War was in full swing and the 22nd Air Force had total airlift responsibility for transportation of troops and equipment. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays were just another day for our war effort.

In 1966 I was promoted to Major and our second son, Kent Cameron, was born November 21st I continued to keep my pilot skills honed by again flying the C-54 as an attached pilot.

Clark Air Base, Philippines became our next destination in the Fall of 1967. I was assigned as the Operations Center Controller and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. This assignment allowed our family to make visits to Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. I flew the Pacific Rim Countries in the C-54 to keep my pilot proficiency. My mother, Gertrude, my sister, Kathryn, and my Uncle, Roy Bales, visited us on their way to the Orient. We saw many of our Air Force buddies as they stopped in the Philippines for Jungle Survival School before their tour in South Vietnam.

In 1969 the time had come for my tour in South Vietnam. I sent my family back to Gower, Missouri and reported as Commander of the 608th Military Airlift Support Squadron at Cam Rahn Bay. It fell upon my duties to close the squadron a year later as this terrible war was in the beginning stages of coming to a close.

What followed was a dream assignment for my family. I was assigned for five years to the Military Airlift Command (MAC) Headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Highlights of our stay included:
1. We purchased our first home in O'Fallon, Illinois
2. Cindy and Greg both attended the same high school all four years
3. Kent got his first dog
4. Donna and I both obtained our Master Degrees
5. I was promoted to full Colonel.

In the Fall of 1977 we left Cindy at the University of Missouri and Greg at the University of Kansas and moved to Yokota Air Base, Japan where I was Deputy Commander of the 316th Tactical Airlift Group. This was the most difficult assignment for Donna as she had just put her parents in a nursing home at Gower and she sadly missed having our two oldest children with us. Thanks to sister, Kathryn at Warrensburg and sister, Bette and Emil Heck, at Lawrence, Kansas for being responsive in our absence. We were also able to bring them to Japan for Christmas and the summers.

We returned to Scott AFB and to the Military Airlift Command Headquarters in 1979. I was Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff Operations until my retirement in 1981. Throughout my career in the Air Force, Donna and I always thought we would return to the farm upon retirement. Consequently we accumulated farm land, but to date have sold all of it.

We moved to Lenexa, Kansas and lived there for thirteen years. In 1993 we moved to our present home in Leawood, Kansas.

I started my own corporate recruiting business called Cameron and Merrill after my two sons, in Olathe, Kansas. We specialized in banking, bakery, medical, fire protection and temporary help. After 10 years I sold the business at its peak and joined Donna as a realtor. I am still a realtor with ReMax Best.

We have been members of the same church for the past 24 years where I have served as Elder three times. I am active in the Overland Park Masonic Lodge. I received my 50 year pin from the Hale City Lodge in the presence of my three cousins, Donald and Howard Baker and Charles Bayrniller. I am also a Director in the local chapter of the Military Officers Association.

Most importantly, Donna and I enjoy our three children and four grandchildren. Kent and his wife Patty live in Olathe, KS with their daughter, Stephanie, and her son, Branxton. Kent works for the U.S. Postal Service. Daughter, Cindy, and son-in-law, Randy live in Layton, Utah where Randy is a Boeing 777 Captain for FedEx. Their son, Garrett, lives in Great Falls, MT with his wife Kristina, and daughter, Kaleigh, lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Brett. Son, Greg, and daughter-in-law, Julie, and their children, Jenny and Matthew, live in Cassville, Missouri where Greg is Senior Vice President - Head of Lending of the Security Bank.

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