Dr. Arthur Gerard Baker of Dallas, formerly of New Hartford, N.Y., passed away Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. He was 94.
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Dr. Baker was born in 1919 in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was a public health officer and public policy pioneer.
He graduated from Calvin College and received his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1943. His practice of medicine began at the university hospital during World War II. He continued in Clay and Jackson counties, Ky., as a medical missionary in wartime Appalachia, where he was a coroner, public health officer and the only doctor for two counties. He traveled by Model A Ford and horse to coal miners, moonshiners, and mountain people's cabins to deliver babies by lantern light, the charge being $15 per delivery.
Post-war, he returned to Michigan where he continued his public health studies, commuting cross-state by train to U of M while practicing public health in western Michigan. Afterward he moved to East Lansing, where he worked in the health department of the state of Michigan until 1954.
He then moved to Pennsylvania, working first as deputy director of the Pittsburgh Department of Health and subsequently organized the Allegheny County Health Department, serving a population of 1.6 million people.
The family moved to Illinois in 1958, where Dr. Baker founded the Lake County Health Department. He encouraged construction of new water and sewage treatment plants to remedy the growing problem of pollution of Lake Michigan, receiving the Crumbine Award "for excellence in environmental health" in 1963.
In 1966, he moved to Albany, N.Y., to become associate commissioner of health, responsible for Community Health Services with offices in Albany and New York City and, later, became medical epidemiologist for the state. He worked on migrant labor issues with Sen. Robert Kennedy and dealt with the cleanup of the noxious Love Canal, near Buffalo, N.Y. He testified as an expert witness before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Warren Court, on behalf of New York state's higher-than-national standards for nursing homes.
He then assumed the position of health commissioner for Oneida County for five years, beginning in 1979. The last seven years of his career he worked in a women's Alzheimers unit in the Utica Psychiatric Hospital in Utica, N.Y.
Dr. Baker saw service to the populace, rather than to the single individual, as his purpose. He was a lifelong pacifist. His hero was Abraham Lincoln. He was an avid gardener, arborist, traveler and railroad enthusiast. He will be sorely missed.
His wife of 65 years, Theresa, and daughter, Ellen, an attorney in upstate New York, predeceased him.
He is survived by five children, Tannette, Kingston; Margaret and her spouse, Robert Lewis, Huntsville; Paul and his spouse, Catherine Rigsby, Durham, N.C.; Stephen and his spouse, Eileen Keller, Olympia, Wash.; and Florence and her spouse, Michael Lee, Spruce Head, Maine; and seven grandchildren.
A celebration of life service, officiated by the Rev. Judy Walker and the Rev. Earl Roberts, will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Shavertown United Methodist Church, 163 N. Pioneer Ave., Shavertown. Visiting hours begin at noon at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Friends Service Committee or a
Arrangements are by Harold C. Snowdon Funeral Home Inc., 140 N. Main St., Shavertown.
Published in Citizens' Voice on Dec. 1, 2013
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