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Obituaries » Robert D. Baker

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February 5, 1941 - June 9, 2022

A celebration of life will take place on Friday, June 24, 2022 , at 1:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. Memorial donations can be made to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The family would like to express their heartfelt gratitude for the love and care Bob received from the staff of Park Village Pines and Centrica Care Navigators hospice.

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Bob was born on February 5, 1941, to parents Harry Lester and Elizabeth Jane (Lawlis) Baker. Although his parents were from West Virginia, Bob was born in Kansas. During his childhood, Bob’s father worked as an oil driller for Standard Oil. This required the family to move frequently from town to town and state to state, eventually bringing them to mid-Michigan.

At age 16, eager to see the world, Bob proudly enlisted in the U.S. Navy, touring abroad, and having memorable adventures. Afterward, he attended Ferris College. He then moved to Kalamazoo to begin working at Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital (KRPH) as a safety and security officer. He spent his career rising through the ranks to become head of the Fire Safety department at KRPH. He was a member of the Kalamazoo Congregational Church for many years.

Bob married twice. He married Jeri Muehlenbeck of Douglas, MI in 1964, and they had one daughter, Doreen. He then married Mary Telfer, of Kalamazoo, in 1967 and they had four children: Laura, Mary Elizabeth, Leigh, and Brett. After his second divorce, he became a confirmed bachelor.

Bob was an unconventional, larger than life character. He was a self-taught builder, mechanic, tinkerer, inventor, and unorthodox fix-it man. A few of his more memorable projects included a deluxe, carpeted, and heated doghouse, a two-story A-frame playhouse with a balcony for his kids, his custom home in Portage that he built from the ground up, as well as countless wheelchair ramps for the disabled in Van Buren County.

After his retirement, he moved to South Haven to be closer to bigger fish on the Big Lake. He spent his free time deer hunting with his son and grandsons, and fishing with anyone brave enough to step foot on one of his boats. He will be remembered for telling hilarious, highly embellished, whopper ‘fish stories’ on and off the water. He was warm and charismatic, generous, funny, and irreverent. He famously loved Halloween and the Fourth of July, and any excuse to make mischief.

Bob was deeply proud of his kids and grandkids, and sentimental about his humble roots in West Virginia. Those who loved him also know that Bob had an impossibly stubborn and rebellious streak. Despite a heart attack, a triple bypass, lung cancer, COPD, and a pandemic, nobody really believed that age or illness could ever beat someone so strong-willed. He lived a long, dynamic life on his own terms, and left a big impression. His family of colorful characters will carry on his legacy, but he will be dearly missed.

Bob is survived by his five children: Doreen (Brent) Tubergen; Laura (Richard) Baker; Elizabeth Baker; Leigh (Shawn) Potts; Brett (Robin) Baker, as well as eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Cynthia (Quint) Watkins and her sons Benjamin and Nathan Watkins; nieces Judith (Dale) Stevens, Rebecca (Tom) Heitman, Jaqueline Stojanovich, and several great nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his older sister Alice Babette Baker Stojanovich in 1968, his father in 1977, and his mother in 2010.