May 29, 1926 – April 21, 2018
Dr. John H. Baker died on April 21, 2018, at the age of 91. Born May 29, 1926, he grew up on a dairy farm in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Before graduating from Uxbridge High School in 1943, he participated in an early matriculation program at Tufts University. In 1944, he joined the United States Army. After basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, he was assigned to Japanese Language School at the University of Pennsylvania, and after V-J Day he served in Japan in the 441st Counterintelligence Corps. Discharged from the Army in 1946, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1950. In 1954, he earned an M.D. from Tufts University Medical School. While at Calvin, he met Marilyn J. Orlebeke, and they married in December 1955. After completing an internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids and a residency at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, he served in private practice for four years in New Ulm, Minnesota and Whitinsville, Massachusetts. While Whitinsville was and would remain his beloved home town, Dr. Baker had a strong interest in the wider world, and in 1963 he joined the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State. That year he and Marilyn moved with their three young children, David, Paul and Ruth, to Yemen, where he served two years as a medical officer. His next assignment (1965) was to Iraq, where he served until U.S. diplomatic personnel were evacuated during the Six-Day War in 1967. He then served eighteen months as a medic in Vietnam while the family remained in Whitinsville. From 1969-1971, he served in Afghanistan, and from 1971-1975 he worked at the State Department while the family lived in Bethesda, Maryland. He then served at two posts in Southeast Asia, Indonesia (1975-1979) and the Philippines (1979-1981). As their youngest went off to college, he and Marilyn spent a year in New Orleans (1981-1982) before he took an assignment to the Soviet Union, where he served as the embassy doctor in Moscow (1982-1986). His final assignment was to the People’s Republic of China (1986-1989), where he and Marilyn witnessed the upheavals in spring 1989 and assisted in providing shelter to the physicist and dissident Fang Lizhi. Over the course of his Foreign Service career, Dr. Baker received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award three times. After retiring from the State Department, he returned to Whitinsville in the fall of 1989, where he and Marilyn became very active in a variety of pursuits. He took seventeen short-term assignments from the American Medical Association’s Project USA program, serving mostly at reservation hospitals in the Sioux Territory. In Whitinsville, he served on the Town of Northbridge Board of Health and chaired the Board of Registrar of Voters. He also served on the board of the Whitinsville Social Library and was active in its book club. He took multiple courses at Clark University in nearby Worcester, and he and Marilyn both were active members of Whitinsville’s Pleasant Street Christian Reformed Church. With a keen interest in civic and world affairs, he read avidly and from 2000 to 2011 contributed regular columns of commentary to the Blackstone Valley Tribune. In 2013 they moved to Salisbury, Maryland, where their daughter Ruth Baker and son-in-law Maarten Pereboom live. Marilyn passed away in May 2015. Dr. Baker had two younger sisters, Ann O’Brien of Fairfield, Connecticut (deceased), and Helen Dykstra of Danville, New Jersey, who survives him. He is also survived by his son David and daughter-in-law Mary Lucasse of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and their sons Joe and Alex, his son Paul of Chicago, Illinois, and Paul’s daughters Hannah and Rachel, and Ruth and Maarten and their sons Max and Ben. Per his wishes, Dr. and Mrs. Baker’s ashes will be interred in Whitinsville at a future date.
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