YORK Dr. Van R. Baker, 88, died December 11, 2013 at York Hospital. Born in Atlanta, Ga., on March 24, 1925, he attended Gordon Military Academy, graduating valedictorian and receiving the school's 1943 appointment to West Point Military Academy. After his graduation from West Point in 1946, Van had a varied and distinguished 21-year army career, retiring as Lieutenant Colonel in 1967. He met his first wife, Mary Light, in 1954 and his active duty included three years teaching English at West Point, during which time they adopted their two children, Eric and Molly. In the early 1960's Van was sent to Bangkok, Thailand, to plan the training for Laotian artillery units. His final assignment was in the Pentagon, as chief of correspondence for the Army's chief of staff. Van received his PhD in English from Columbia University in 1968 and returned to teaching. As the first chairman of the English Department at York College he took pride in helping to build a new four-year college. After his wife Mary's death in 1982, Van was remarried to Louise Smith, his wife of 29 years. He retired from York College in 1988, was named professor emeritus, and published his book The Websters (Kent State University Press, 2000), a history of the Mexican War told through the letters of an Army family. He continued to enjoy travel, life in York, and his family. Van is survived by his wife, Louise Baker; his son, Eric Baker; his daughter, Molly Blankenstein and her husband, Ed; his brother, Powell Cotter and his wife, Beth; his sister-in-law, Dolores Baker; his stepchildren, Doug, Sue, and Libby Smith; his grandchildren, Troy, Katie, Will, Abigail, Owen, Nathan, and Steven; and four nieces. He was predeceased by his first wife, Mary, his brother, Richard Baker, and his grandson, Jonathan Baker. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, December 15, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George St., York, PA 17403. In lieu of flowers, donations are welcome to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York; or York College of Pennsylvania Fund for Student Scholarships, Office of Advancement, Grantley Hall, York, PA 17403.
Published by York Daily Record from Dec. 13 to Dec. 14, 2013.