Van R. Baker
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.
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16 Entries
I was a student at York College in the early 1970s and vividly remember Dr. Baker. As Chairman of the English Department, he was known for his charisma and zest for life. Dr. Baker was extremely popular among students and faculty. Years later, I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Baker again as we were both members of the York Twinning Association. My life was enriched having known Dr. Baker. We will miss him dearly.
Scott Markle
December 25, 2013
I had the honor of being one of his students during the fall of 1980 at York College of Pa. and was truly inspired by him. He was an asset to the college. He touched the lives of many students. May he rest in peace.
Tony Mingora
December 19, 2013
It was an honor and a joy to have known Van, however briefly. My sincere condolences to Louise and his family.
Brandon Lillie
December 16, 2013
Van was a true gentleman. I am going to miss seeing him every Sunday. We will always remember this very beloved member of our church family.
Kathy Smith
December 15, 2013
Louise, I'm so sorry for your loss. Van was such a warm and sweet man! I will never forget how you and Van welcomed Chip and me when we first moved to York. You were both so gracious and kind to us! I will always remember Van's gentle and sweet smile. My thoughts are with you and your family.
Jill Anderson (formerly Miller)
December 15, 2013
I enjoyed his lecture & Clases as well his frienship .y sincere condolences to his family.
Eric Wilson-Dubon
December 14, 2013
Louise this Florence who used to clean for you..Me and Shari want to express our deepest sympathy in your loss..We really enjoyed Van and was a wonderful and sweet and you family are in our thoughts and prayers.God Bless You All.
Florence Strayer
December 13, 2013
Powell and all the Baker family,
So sorry for your loss. I remember Van fondly from when I was a child living across the street in Barnesville. He was one of my Mama's favorites, and that speaks highly of him. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Sally (Cook) Allison
December 13, 2013
Louise, I can think of few people as loved and respected as Van. In recent months it was evident that he struggled with his physical limitations but he didn't let it stop him . . . and his constant warm smile and personal greeting never waivered. We will all miss him very much.
Steve Snell
December 13, 2013
It was an honor to have met and gotten to know Van. He did a lot to make York a better place for all. My condolences go out to his family. May God Bless Van and his entire family. Prayers go out for him and all of you.
Cameron Texter
December 13, 2013
Doug and Beth, Espressing my sympathy at your loss.
I remember him as my college professor in English. Hope you and family are well.
Sue (Beard) Allen
December 13, 2013
An extraordinary man who left a legacy for his grandson, my son, Troy to continue in the Army as an officer!
Ed Blankenstein
December 13, 2013
Dearest Louise,
Our thoughts are with you as we all remember Van's wonderful life and the great spirit he brought to UUCY. We are gratified to have known such a fine man.
Craig Zumbrun and Dianne Creagh
December 13, 2013
Dear Molly and Eric, What a lovely tribute to an exceptional man! Please take care of yourselves during this difficult time.
Leslie Bentz
December 13, 2013
I was so saddened to hear of Dr. Baker's passing. I had the privilege of growing up as a neighbor of Dr. Baker and his family and he was the type of man that the world seldom sees anymore. His love for other people, his sharp intellect, and his noble character left an indelible impression on everyone he met.

Molly and Eric, may the memories of his love for you help guide you and your Families through this difficult time. You were both blessed to have had him for so long in your lives, as we all were.
Kris Trimmer
December 13, 2013
He was an exceptional man, truly "a man for all seasons" and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
December 13, 2013
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