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Ellis Adrian Baker

DreamaGail Baker
(Ellis was a son of Joseph Robert Baker and Nannie Whitt, both born in Tazewell County, Virginia.)

The following tribute to Ellis Baker was published on DAILY CELEBRATIONS at [external link]

November 17, 1917 - April 18, 2000

Today we celebrate the life of Ellis Adrian Baker, born November 17, 1917, in North Bend Lumber Camp, Nicholas County, West Virginia. His death on April 18, 2000, made the world a poorer place but heaven immensely richer.

For the last forty years of his life, “Mr. Baker," as he was known, was a simple man with simple needs. He was one of those genuine “characters” that small-town America sometimes produces. He tended cattle; he tended bees; but most of all, he tended people.

One of his sisters said she always thought Ellis should have been a priest. Actually, he was a priest of sorts. Found in his wallet after his death was a beat-up old crucifix made of the basest sort of metal, tarnished on the side: an apt symbol, for his mission was to the poor, the different, the retarded, the unaccepted, the widow.

He never owned a home. At least that’s how the world saw it. Actually, he had two “homes”...his electric shop on Monroe Street in Alderson, West Virginia, where anyone of any race, class or social standing was welcome, and his “home” at Alderson Hospitality House, a Christian mission to the families of women in the Federal Prison at Alderson.

He never married, nor had children. But other people’s children loved him. They could sense that he was an authentic person. Nothing phony there! A little girl once told him, “You sure are ugly.” He just grinned, and in about a minute, that little girl was sitting on his lap, talking as though she had found her best friend. And she probably had.

If he had two of anything, he would give one away. His blood relatives knew that if they gave him anything for his birthday or Christmas, most likely he would give it to someone else. He gave his time, his talent, his labor, and most of his money away.

There are lots of “Mr. Baker” stories, some just now coming to light. One woman related the story of how her first husband was killed, leaving her a widow with small children. When her washing machine broke down, “Mr. Baker” fixed it but wouldn’t take any money, saying “This will help you out a little.” No one will ever know just how many people he helped. He never bragged. He never boasted. He just went quietly about his life, helping those who happened across his path.

At eighty-two years of age, he was often found late in the evening working on someone’s furnace, most likely for free. By the world’s standards, he was a poor man. He died with a few dollars in his battered wallet and a few meager possessions in the room that had been his home for thirty-five years.

Ellis could have been a very wealthy man, and at one time, had a Lincoln Continental, a motorcycle, and a closet full of expensive suits and shoes. But somewhere along the way, he gave up that life. From then on, he traveled “light." For those who knew and loved him, he was the closest thing to a saint most of us will ever know.

Written by his sister-in-law, Dee
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