In honor of my father, Robert M. Baker Jr., who died on March 6, 2016. I gave the following eulogy on March 15, 2016, at La Cañada Presbyterian Church in honor of his passing:
You see it on the news every so often. Some sort of disaster — a hurricane, wildfire, or a earthquake — hits a community. We see the images of devastation. "The wave knocked houses off of their foundations." "The home burned down to its foundation."
But sometimes, "foundation" is a word of hope. Those washed-away homes? If the foundation survived, it's the place from which you start rebuilding. What's the first thing layed down when a new home is built? The foundation.
Over the past few weeks a storm afflicted our family. It blew us around, caused casualties, and — metaphorically — knocked down the comfortable homes we lived in. It was a hard few weeks.
And despite that, while I can’t speak for everyone, I will rebuild as strong as before. Why? Because my foundation is intact.
And that’s partly due to my father, who helped lay it.
My father and I had dissimilar personalities in many, many ways. Our politics, our social attitudes, our tastes in entertainment — all quite different. But there are so many things that are, well, me, that I can trace directly from him.
My first memory was of him playing blocks and airplanes with me in Glendale. I still like to build things.
The first memory to which I can put an approximate date was him and I sitting on top of a brick wall outside a supermarket around the time of the Bicentennial. He was cutting up watermelon slices for us with his car keys. I still appreciate a low-tech, low-cost solution to problems.
My father would take me out to the Tehachapi Loop to watch the trains. I think that's one reason I came to love all things transportation.
My father lent me his books, particularly those on World War II and early 20th Century America. Inspired by my early reading, I eventually got a history degree and even now, the majority of my reading is in history.
My love of geography arose when he would drive us all over — not just California, but Canada, Florida, the east coast — and point out what he saw as interesting (even if us kids found it less so).
Those are just a few examples.
I didn’t know it at the time, and sometimes didn’t appreciate it, but he was laying a foundation. Many of the attitudes that shape how I live my life, how I treat my children, how I react to the world, arose because of my father’s influence.
And these attitudes survived in the later years, when I rarely saw my father. I didn’t get new examples from him, but the foundation he helped lay was there. Therefore, at every crossroad during my life, when I decided what to do (or sometimes what NOT to do), he was there.
This has been a hard few weeks. A lot of feelings and memories, both good and bad, that were long submerged came to the surface. But I will recover — we as a family will recover — because the man whose life we’re here to honor, Robert “Bob” Baker — my father, laid a good foundation for me.
Like his father laid for him. Like I am laying for my children, and they for theirs.
Every parent lays a foundation for their children, and mine is strong. Regardless of any other feelings, I will always be grateful to my father for giving me that strong foundation.
Thank you for coming and for honoring my father.