Class of 1959

We, the Class of 1959, celebrated our 50th class reunion on April 24 and 25, 2009. This blog is about sharing memories of our class reunions and a long ago life at our Alma Mater's, S.F.X.A. and S.A.H.S. Good memories of days gone by but not forgotten! A gift to my classmates. ~Marian Love Phillips ~

Thursday, March 27, 2008

SAHS Class of 1959~Jack

~John "Jack" R. Baker~

After leaving St. Al, I enrolled at Auburn University as an engineering student. I stayed at Auburn until I was called to active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve in August of 1960. I was assigned to the U.S.S. Valley Forge, an aircraft carrier, in Norfolk, VA. After a short jaunt into the Caribbean including port calls at Kingston, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands and Guantanamo, Cuba the ship proceeded to Portsmouth, VA for a refit as a LPH (helicopter carrier). After refit, we were assigned to Long Beach, CA as our new home port. This required a trip through the Panama Canal. Wonderful! Shortly after our arrival at Long Beach, we were ordered to South East Asia and based at Subic Bay, in the Philippines. The ship made the rounds of the Pacific Ports including Honolulu, Okinawa and Hong Kong. While at Subic, we returned to the ship one late one night to find the pier all lighted and a beehive of activity. We soon learned that we would embark that night for a “secret location.” We took aboard 1200 marines, pulled anchor and within hours were underway. Reaching the Bay of Siam, we soon offloaded the marines in civilian clothes who were headed for Vietnam. My sense is that these were the first “advisers” to enter the conflict.

Returning to the States, I re-enrolled at Auburn and soon became architecture student. Architecture school was great fun from the get go. Design studio at Auburn was an exciting place to be. Critiques were routinely brutal but I survived and did well in design. Among the highlights was meeting Buckminster Fuller and working with some remarkably creative instructors, some from the Bauhaus tradition and a few from Rhode Island School of Design. After two years at Auburn’s Arch. School, a number of instructors resigned in protest as one of them was fired for participating in the Selma March. That left us in a lurch and eleven of us transferred to the University of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma had talented staff as well and we thrived there as well. About this time, I met Bobbie Williams, a red headed history major from Oklahoma City. In 1969, I graduated with a degree in architecture and Bobbie and I married a few days later.

We soon relocated to Memphis, Tennessee where I worked for Mel O’Brien and Associates. At Mel’s, I was assigned the renovation of the old Clairidge Hotel and worked some on the Beal Street project as well. After a year in Memphis, a friend encouraged us to move to Seattle. In a VW bus with several cats and everything we owned we headed to the Northwest. It was an epic trip with visits to friends and relatives all the way out, it took two months.

Arriving in Seattle, I went to work for Dale Jorgensen and Associates. Dale and I went to work on Fire Station #7, a station for fire boats, on the Duwamish Waterway. We were a good team and enjoyed working together. The project evolved quickly and won approval of the Seattle Design Commission. We soon had the project in working drawings and I decided to go back to graduate school in Fine Arts.

We went Back to Oklahoma in an old Volvo 544 with a matching green trailer. After a semester I received an assistance ship teaching first year art students. With the assistance ship came a large studio to work in alongside another artist. These folks were my inspiration to go to art school to begin with. The environment was open and enthusiastic. If you could think and were willing to work, one was encouraged. Wonderful things happened here.Amazing work was produced with no media limitations. We had a foundry, a welding studio and a wood shop. My Masters Show included several mixed media pieces. Among the 2D and 3D works was The Transient Suitcase, Dave Rosen’s House, What Have I Become?, and See Mt. Williams.

From Oklahoma I went back to Seattle and Bobbie stayed to complete her Masters Degree. I worked for a City of Seattle Design Project called Project 27+ for about a year. Bobbie returned to Seattle at the end of the school year. About 7 months later We knew that our lives were going different directions and We agreed to “split the sheets.”

By fall of the following year I had been hired to teach at Cornish College of the Arts as an instructor in the Design Department. I also moved into a large storefront studio in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood in Seattle. The studio was a part of Pelican Bay Art Cooperative. The residents were all artists and a wild and woolly glorious bunch of folks.We did great projects in the community gallery including “The Pelican Cove Café,” an art café made completely of recycled materials.

From this studio, I evolved the Museum of Neighborhood Phenomena and won National Endowment of the Arts Funding for it. This was also a multi media piece with photo illustrated stories about the neighborhood and three dimensional works. The following spring the NEA funded another piece at Seattle Center called Spirit House. This was a sixteen sided pavilion with 48 glass panels each with a sequence of transparencies depicting activities in as many spaces in the Center.

At a sidewalk café near Pelecan Bay one day in 1976, I spotted a very attractive, if chatty, woman sitting with a friend of mine. My friend introduced me to Judith Bader and we’ve been together since. We married on Aug. 9, 1981 at an old one room schoolhouse overlooking the Snoqualme River Valley. I give Judith most of the credit for much of the success I have had in life. She is truly a remarkable woman whom I admire and love dearly.

Meanwhile, back at Cornish, I took a turn as head of the design department. A few years later, back in a regular faculty teaching position, myself and reps of the Dance, Art, Jazz and Classical music faculty organized the Cornish Federation of Teachers, a union. We spent the next year gathering signatures and campaigning and in the spring won our election and became Local 4169 of the American Federation of Teachers. I was elected president of the organization and we then negotiated our first contract gaining an 18% salary increase and medical benefits for most of the faculty.

In 1984, while at Cornish, I was asked by a friend to redesign his kitchen and dining room. I did that and folks liked the outcome and soon I had a business which became Jack Baker Architectural Design.

In 1986 Genevieve Celeste (Viva) Bader-Baker was born and changed our lives forever.We were obsessive (some say neurotic) parents each taking time out of our work lives to share parenting. The little blond blue eyed person, as it turned out, needed lots of our attention. At age 4, the diagnoses began to manifest evolving to Asperger’s Syndrome(high functioning autism) at age 11. After much difficulty, she’s doing well now. A caring person, she keeps track of everyone’s welfare in the community has a plethora of non-profits that she supports and loves animals and doing art . I call her “My ticket to heaven.”

The experience of raising Viva has brought many gifts to Judith and I over the years. We’ve formed many wonderful relationships with other parents of special needs children.Judith is a speech pathologist whose specialty is autism. Her dedication to her work and her skill in working with these children are well known in the Seattle School District. When Viva was 13 I began attending the Washington Fathers Network, a support group for men with special needs children. A wonderful group, I was asked to facilitate meetings for the group after a year of attendance. I continued to do this work for eight years and really loved it.

After retiring from the WFN, I joined the Board of Directors for MHCP, a non-profit housing provider. We own or manage seven manufactured housing communities with over 500 units in the region. In Seattle, housing is very expensive and our organization provides entry level owner occupied housing at a very reasonable cost to folks from low to moderate income and some market rate housing.

I retired from Jack Baker Architectural Design two years ago and began doing art again shortly thereafter. My first piece is called the Mysterious Juggernaut and is about autism.I am doing another piece for a friend in Martha’s Vineyard that is called The Now and Then Arch. It’s made of chairs stacked and rotated to form two columns topped by more chairs forming a gable-like roof. It’s about living in the present. Looking forward to seeing everyone. Jack

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