The Best of the Best
Donald A. Baker ( Dec. 1912 - Dec. 2001)
Shown above in 1945 beside an Army Stinson L-5, one of the aircraft he flew against the Japanese in the Pacific during World War II, Don Baker was the epitome of a husband and father, a gentleman and a gentle man, a man of goodwill and humor who was never in his life heard to utter a word of profanity. Raised in poverty in the American Midwest during the Great Depression of the 1920's and 30's, he entered the U.S. Army during WWII and volunteered for flight training, rising rapidly from the rank of private to captain before the war ended. He was called back into service for the Korean War, and this time, for the sake of his young family, decided to remain in the Army. By the time he retired from military service in the late 1960's he was a Lt. Colonel and one of the few of the Army's Master Aviators, having become proficient in many of the Army's airplanes and helicopters. Owing to his exceptional flying skills and perfect safety record he was the pilot of choice for many a general, admiral, and congressman, and aviation units that he led were always award-winners. Men who served with and under him in WWII and afterward frequently became his good friends and some continued to correspond with him to the end of his life. He married Mary Ann Sheets in 1948 and they raised four sons.
After his retirement, in his sixties and seventies, Don Baker was the test pilot for the homebuilt aircraft of his son Tom and Tom's wife Lee, and as an instructor pilot for family members interested in learning to fly. He was the original pilot for Baker Aerial Photography and Aerial Archaeology beginning in the 1970's, flying whenever he was needed even into his mid-80's. He died at age 89 after a short illness, and is sorely missed and fondly remembered by all who knew him.
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