William L. Baker, MD, age 85, died peacefully in Norman Regional Hospital July 9, 2019.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 11:00 am on Friday, July 19, 2019, at the First Presbyterian Church of Norman with Rev. Michael East officiating. The family will receive friends following the service at the Church.
Survivors are his wife Paula of Norman and daughters Julia Baker (Susan Miller) of Seattle and Christine Baker O'Neil (the Rev. Mike O'Neil) and grand-daughter Grace O'Neil of Wheeling WV, and brother-in-law Dr. Harlan Evans of Houston.
His parents were William H. Baker and Gertrude Rice Baker of Broken Arrow OK who pre-deceased him. He was born October 26, 1933.
All family members could count on his participation from camping with the Camp Fire Girls to joining bird watching expeditions. He was especially supportive in medical situations when explanations or presence was needed.
Dr. Baker graduated from Broken Arrow High School and Oklahoma State University. He received his doctor of medicine degree from the University of Oklahoma and interned at Wichita Wesley Hospital. He was a psychiatry resident at Griffin Hospital where he was a staff member for many years. He also worked at the outpatient mental health clinic at the Oklahoma City Veterans Hospital and was an adjunct professor in the OU School of Medicine. He was president of the Oklahoma Psychiatric Association from 1976-77.
He was a Renaissance Man. A life-long model airplane enthusiast, he was nationally known as a designer, builder and competitor in model airplane contests. He won the national model airplane championship Mulvihill Trophy in 1976. He also wrote and published "The Okie Flyer," a newsletter that combined technology with philosophy.
Throughout his life, his interest and love of animals was noted. In addition to a dog and a cat, he had bats and mice in the basement as a child. He earned a rare faloners' license for a red-tailed hawk in high school. He enrolled in OSU with plans to be a veterinarian. Although he changed his career course to be a "people doctor," his love of animals never abated. He was an avid zoo-goer and cat owner. He was especially tender-hearted toward abandoned kittens and injured birds. He even made bread crumbs available for a one legged grackle. OU's Brandt Park ("the duck pond") was a favorite brief excursion.
Another life-long love was music, especially jazz. He remembered a graduation trip to New York City jazz clubs all his life. He also enjoyed classical music at concerts at OU and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
Later in life he took painting lessons at the Firehouse Art Center and had a one-man show. He was a docent at the Oklahoma City art museum and the Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art. He contributed three large landscape paintings to the Cleveland County Health Department.
An enthusiast about education, he was president of the student teachers club at Broken Arrow high school. He enjoyed teaching beginning model airplaners, artists and nursing and medical students. "The Little Prince" of Antoine de Saint-Exupery provided a favorite lesson--that of the fox and the prince who must get acquainted very slowly to reach rapport.
He was an egalitarian, ready to interact, hire or teach anyone no matter what gender or ethnicity. All he asked was commitment.
A veteran, he was the psychiatrist for the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1967. He earned a Bronze Star for creative psychiatry and setting up Army social services in Vietnam. He waited 31 years to be thanked for his service in Vietnam.
Humor permeated his life. He was known for his witty sayings and the wide smile that lasted until the end. The smile was available to everyone in his egalitarian world.
Dr. Baker ("Bill" or "Doc") was a resident of the Norman Veterans Center for the past five years. He enjoyed participating in arts projects supported by the center, the Firehouse Art Center, the state arts council and the national Endowment for the Arts.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Activity Director of the Norman Veterans Center, PO Box 1668, Norman OK 73070, or the Firehouse Art Center, 444 S. Flood Ave, Norman OK 73069.
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Norman Veterans Center
PO Box 722160, Norman OK 73070
Firehouse Art Center
444 S. Flood Avenue, Norman OK 73069