Kory John Paradise Baker left this world far too early on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.
Kory's magnetic personality touched more people than we might ever know. If you met Kory even once, he had the ability to embody a best friend. Kory grew up in Rochester and attended John Marshall High School, where he played golf and knew basically everyone in the school. He then went onto college at Duluth and UW-LaCrosse, where he consistently made the dean's list and even more wonderful lifelong friends. After college he enlisted as a medic in the U.S. Army, served in Iraq, and most recently was living in Chicago. And, you guessed it, more friends and lifelong bonds were forged along the way.
Kory was a lover of live music, golf, laughter, animals and pizza. In fact, he could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner — cooked, burnt or even raw. Kory was one of the most compassionate and sensitive humans on the planet. In second grade, he had a hamster named Kristen, and when she got sick we thought we might have to call a real ambulance. His laughter could be heard for miles, and his beautiful smile was contagious. But unfortunately, in addition to the millions of amazing traits Kory possessed, something possessed him. Kory fought a courageous battle against PTSD and substance addiction. What started innocently, quickly moved into pain pills, and culminated in heroin. And it would be that evil drug that was responsible for an accidental overdose after a stint of sobriety. It's every parent's worst nightmare to lose a child, but it is another terror altogether when it comes via the vice grip of addiction.
We loved Kory with every fiber of our bodies, but we now know that sometimes it isn't enough. We will never be able to understand the sadness and demons that Kory dealt with every hour of every day. Like all addicts, he had a way of only showing us what we wanted to see. Despite all of this, Kory had finally found the love of his life in his girlfriend, Kelly. Just knowing about the amazingly positive times that Kory and Kelly shared together over the past several months has been like oxygen to us. It literally is helping us breathe knowing how happy he was in the months before that fateful day. The pictures remind us of the fun, handsome, intelligent, wonderful man we all knew.
Words cannot express how much we will miss Kory/KJ. As painful as it is to write these words, we want the world to know that heroin addiction needs to be an issue at the forefront of our lives. This is an epidemic with an upward trajectory. If you're using pain meds like OxyContin, please know that they are incredibly dangerous, and can easily lead to heroin. If you're a parent/sibling/friend, and you suspect someone is in trouble, it is probably much worse than you can imagine. If you're an addict please know that there are people who love you like mad and will go through anything to get you help. No one should have to write any more obituaries like this.
We believe our amazing Kory is at peace. But the void left by his incredible presence will never ever diminish. Goodbye, KJ. We love you and miss you more than you might ever know. Love, Mom, Dad, Nikki, Bruce, Nicole, Amanda, Rachel, Paul (deceased), Amy, Katie, Julie, Kelly and many special aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and oh-so-many wonderful lifelong friends.
Please join us as we celebrate Kory's life this Friday, Feb. 26, at Ranfranz & Vine Funeral Homes in Rochester. Funeral will be at 4 p.m., with a visitation starting at 3 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, we would prefer memorials in Kory's name be directed to Recovery is Happening, 25 16th St. NE, Rochester, MN 55906.
Published in The Post-Bulletin on Feb. 24, 2016.