Some words about Howard Baker from his fellow Rotarians
I have always admired Doc's passion and strength of conviction. When I recite the Four Way Pact, I have an image of him contemplating the precise wording to convey his powerful message where the actions mean more than the words. I will miss his Friday hug and kiss. I will also miss his sense of fairness and the democratic diversity he brought to our membership.
Doc Baker was a great open-minded man who loved to listen to all opinions, respected different points of view, and never was rude to people who did not express the same opinions he believed in. There was a time when I was not very tolerant of liberal views—I felt I couldn't ever have a liberal friend whose opinions were radically different from mine. But Doc taught me that all ideas have value. While he may have disagreed with most of my ideas, he respected me and challenged the view or concept. Because of my FRIENDSHIP with Doc, I learned to be more tolerant and accepting, and to live the Four-Way Pact as Doc would have wished. I am a better person for having known Doc Baker.
Since I was eight years old, I've known Doc Baker. He was a terrific man who got me through a difficult five years of having those awful braces that every kid hoped they would never have to wear. He kept my spirits up and told me to hang in there because my teeth would look beautiful in the end. At that time in my life, I knew him only as my orthodontist and a good friend of my parents, but over the years and especially since my involvement with Rotary, I can say that I really got to know Doc personally and I will never forget what a good friend he was to me.
A number of years ago Doc Baker was in charge of getting programs for our Rotary Club. At the time, there was a conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. It was suggested that Doc get a speaker from the Israeli Consulate to discuss that topic. He did get an Israeli speaker but he also got an Arab speaker to talk the following week. This was so typical of Doc Baker always trying to be fair, always trying to understand the many sides of an issue.
Society's definition of a Renaissance man is that he is a universal, well-rounded individual—a man of grace and culture, a gentleman and an optimistic man of courage; a well-educated, inquisitive, articulate man who constantly strives to learn more about his world; a kind, caring, and considerate man.
In my brief acquaintance with Doc, that is how I thought of him. All those traits seemed to manifest themselves in some subtle way.
Doc performed many acts of kindness for many people, and I was one of them. In an early conversation, Doc discovered that I was of Lithuanian heritage. As it happens, the Sun Times was running a weekly series of articles about the country and its people. Each week, Doc would clip and bring me the latest edition. It was such a nice thing to do for someone that he barely just me. Doc was a good man. He was funny and gracious and kind and I really miss him.
Doc Baker was known as Uncle Joe's Jewish Cowboy; and we were known as "Moishe" and "Maishe," the Little Jewish Cowboy and the Little Gentile Boy.
I knew Howard for over 20 years, and during that time my respect for his wisdom and common sense only grew stronger. All of us in our Rotary Club owe a great debt to him, not only for starting our Club, but for the continued influence he had on how we conducted ourselves in the Rotary World. Our Club is well respected in our District, and anyone who does not think that Doc Baker has had a great deal to do with that just does not understand how he was a guiding influence on the minds of every President our Club has ever had.
Personally, I will miss the many private conversations we had on all the important topics of our time. Howard made a point of letting you know his opinion on whatever was happening in the news. Often he would raise issues that I may have never thought of myself, and sometimes made me look at things in a new light.
We will surely miss him in our Club. We can only hope that we can keep his influence with us as we go forward.
|Updated: March 20, 2010