Obituary of Jack Baker
Jackson Kirby Jack Baker, 85, passed away on Thursday, October 30, 2014, in Hobbs, New Mexico, after a brief battle with cancer. Funeral services will be 11:00 AM, Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at Griffin Funeral Home. Interment will follow in Prairie Haven Cemetery with full military honors provided by Fort Bliss Honor Guard. Visitation will be held the afternoon of Tuesday, November 4, 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at Griffin Funeral Home.
Jack was born June 2, 1929, on a small farm near Charlotte, North Carolina, to Fred and Alpharetta Baker. By 1937, the worsening economic conditions of the Great Depression had forced the family to sell their farm and move to the bustling oilfield town of Hobbs.
Jack attended Hobbs schools until he developed a serious longterm illness, causing him to eventually miss three consecutive years of school. Consequently, he didnt graduate until 1950, although it was as a member of the National Honor Society and as one of Hobbs High Schools oldest graduates ever, a pattern that he was to repeat throughout his life.
After graduation, Jack was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served in the Korean War as a radio operator in an antiaircraft unit in the North American Air Defense System.
Upon his discharge, he enrolled in classes at the University of New Mexico in 1953, courtesy of the GI Bill. In 1958, he met and married Ellen Wesley, a coed from Indiana, whose dreams of travel and adventure and a love of the arts matched his.
In 1960, with his degree not quite completed, Jack reenlisted in the Army, and this time, it was as an instructor at the Army Finance School where, over the next 19 years, he served in offices in Korea, New York City, Germany twice, Vietnam, and Iran, and traveled extensively to many other places. Jack and Ellen were able to indulge their love of the arts, enjoying almost 1900 cultural performances in many of the top cities of the world.
In 1976, Ellen died, and three years later, Jack retired from his career in the Army. For the next ten years, Jack divided his time between New York City and Albuquerque, before finally returning to Hobbs in 1989.
To fill his time, in January 1990 Jack began taking aerobic classes at New Mexico Junior College. He credits several key faculty members for convincing him to pursue academic classes as well, setting in motion events which would shape the rest of his life. During his time at NMJC, Jack was named to the National Deans List four times, became a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and received the NMJC History Award in 1993. The following year, he graduated Magna cum Laude with his associate degree at the age of 65.
In the fall of 1994, Jack was awarded an academic scholarship to attend College of the Southwest now University of the Southwest in Hobbs. During his two years there, he was also awarded a Fellowship to write for the campus newspaper, named assistant editor of the colleges literary magazine, admitted to Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, named to the Presidents Honor List twice, and graduated Magna cum Laude with his Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology in the spring of 1996.
Fueled by his newfound confidence, Jack was determined to finally complete his degree from UNM. Over three and a half decades later, Jack finally received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the University of New Mexico in the summer of 1996.
In 1997, Jack won fourth place nationally in Sparrowgrass Poetry Forum for Silent Wings, a poem he wrote about the death of his wife Ellen.
For the next few years, Jack taught Basic Reading Skills at the Lea County Literacy Center, took additional classes at NMJC and CSW, and added running to his list of accomplishments. Twice he won first place in the mens over60 Mile Run at the annual HOST Run for Recycling.
Not yet finished with his academic endeavors, in 2003 Jack registered for classes at Eastern New Mexico University through NMJCs distance learning site and, over the next seven years, maintained a 4.0 grade point average, earned membership in the National Scholars Honor Society, and completed all requirements for yet another bachelors degree. Jack accomplished all this while battling through six eye surgeries and progressive blindness caused by macular degeneration.
At his May 15, 2010, graduation ceremony, Jack was singled out by ENMU President Steven Gamble, who announced that Jack was the schools oldest graduate ever. He received a standing ovation from the thousands in attendance at Greyhound Arena that day as he received his third and final bachelors degree at the age of 80. His feat was chronicled in the pages of American Profile, a national weekly publication.
For the next four years, Jack made New Mexico Junior College his home, taking a variety of yoga, aerobics, and fitness classes or stopping by to quietly visit offices where friends old and new welcomed this quiet, unassuming man of many talents. A familiar and beloved icon on the NMJC campus, Jack Baker leaves a legacyand exampleof accomplishment through perseverance that will not be soon forgotten.
Jack was preceded in death by his wife Ellen, his parents, and his brother Fred G. Baker, Jr. He is survived by a nephew, Michael Steven Baker, of Midland, Texas.
Services are under the direction of Griffin Funeral Home. Online condolences may be made to www.griffinfuneralhomehobbs.com.