Life Story / Obituary
Ralph Russell Baker, 91, of Holland, passed away Sunday, May 9, 2021, at home surrounded by his loving family.
He was born to George and Ruth (Struley) Baker of Chicago, Il on April 23, 1930. His family relocated to the Saugatuck, MI area when he was a young child. After school, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Japan as a paratrooper at the end of WWII. Returning home to MI he began a lifelong career as an owner/operator truck driver. He also met and married his Chicago born beauty Betty Jane. Thankfully Betty was also a generous person as she would spend the next 64 years sharing Ralph with his other passion, auto racing.
That passion started at a young age as he "borrowed" his Mother's car as a teenager to race at Allegan County Fairgrounds. From there he went on to race at several tracks across the Midwest but mostly stayed in the SW MI area. His racing days spanned over 5 decades as a driver, car owner, and mechanic. Then, while no longer competing, his love of the sport and racing connections kept him still going to the track for another 25 years. He was inducted into both the Berlin Raceway Hall of Fame and Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame but was also extremely proud of the fact to be the first auto racer out of Saugatuck, MI. Although illness kept him from being present at the track in person the past couple of months, he would still watch on TV to stay connected to his racing "family" and friends.
His 91 years was an incredible journey which in turn leaves a lifetime of memories for loved ones to cherish.
Ralph is survived by daughters Ruth (Bill) Kaye, Jami Baker (Dean Berens), Maree Baker, and Amy (Bill) Embil, son James Baker and son-in-law Wesley Mitts; 14 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren, 2 great-great grandchildren as well as several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife Betty of 64 years, sons Ralph Jr., Mike, and Scott, and daughters Donna and Carole; His parents; Ruth Baker and George & Mary Baker; parents-in-law, George and Ruth Merwin; Sister Shirley (Jack) Kouw, Brothers, Junior Baker, and Harry (Betty) Baker. Sister-in-law Phyllis (Bert) Rastall.
A private family service will be held at Riverside Cemetery in Saugatuck.
There will be a Celebration of Life in his honor at a later date and all will be welcome to attend.
Arrangements are by the Dykstra Funeral Home-Mulder Chapel.
Photo credit courtesy of Tom DeVette