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Life Story / Obituary
Tom Baker was born in Flint September 9, 1943 to Fred and Martha June Baker. He grew up on Wheaton Avenue in Kalamazoo with two older sisters, Tori and Betsy, and his Nana, Marion B. Thompson, who lived nearby on Axtell Street.
Tom was a known neighborhood troublemaker who was always up to something with his friends. He often told a story about a day spent grabbing car bumpers to skid behind them on the icy streets, wearing through the soles of his brand new boots. Another favorite memory was sledding down the hill behind his middle school on lunch trays nicked from the school cafeteria. His parents had a house on Lake Michigan, where he would spend summers.
Tom had a passion for football from a young age and was one of the area’s premiere players, earning a full-ride scholarship that he was unable to take advantage of due to a knee injury. He attended Kalamazoo Central High School, and then Western Michigan University, where he studied business until he was hired by General Motors. Tom was one of the first hires at the Sprinkle Road plant, where he worked until it closed in 1999.
Tom married the love of his life, Denise Hames, on August 31, 1974. They had two children, Lindsay and Zachary. The family moved to Mattawan, where they built a home on 10 acres. A true outdoorsman, Tom especially enjoyed fishing for bluegills. He taught generations of children, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren how to fish with the “magic yellow fishing pole,” which he bought for Denise on their honeymoon.
An avid reader, Tom enjoyed poetry, murder mysteries, and outdoors stories. He loved birds and was always trying to outsmart the squirrels that stole his bird food. After his retirement, he was caretaker for properties of the J. A. Woolam Foundation near Pretty Lake. He could fix anything and everything, and he was often called to advise on leaky roofs, fix broken water heaters, flush unflushable toilets, and coax cranky snowblowers back to life.
Tom was as indestructible as he was accident prone. His scuffed knuckles and torn jeans were evidence that he was always working on projects and not afraid to scrape himself up in the service of a job well-done. In his free time, you could find Tom playing with his grandchildren, plying the waters of Barton Lake in his fishing boat, bemoaning the prospects of the Detroit Lions, and generally being the rock that anchored the Baker family.
Much loved husband, father, and grandfather, Tom died suddenly on March 16, 2019. Tom was preceded in death by his parents and sister Victoria Baker. Surviving are his loving wife Denise, children Lindsay Baker and Zachary (Heidi) Baker, grandchildren Alexandra and Simon, sister Betsy Baker, and many nieces and nephews. A funeral service will be held on Thursday (MAR 21) at 11 a.m. at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. A reception with refreshments will follow in the Life Story Center. Please visit www.betzlerfuneralhome.com to archive a favorite memory or photo and sign Tom’s online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.