Elaine H. (Smith) Baker
When Elaine H. (Smith) Baker died early Monday morning, Oct. 23, in Vero Beach, Fla., it didn’t take long for the news to spread to her beloved hometown of Seekonk, retirement community of Melbourne Village or points across the East Coast – and beyond.
Baker, 89, passed away peacefully at the Brookdale Senior Living Center, surrounded by loving children and grandchildren, at about 8 a.m.
She had told her family numerous times she wanted to live to be 90, which would have occurred in less than three months, but her body chose another path, as she had developed cancer several months ago, then became ill with pneumonia.
She was born Elaine Hewitt Smith in Providence, R.I. on Jan. 16, 1934, the eldest daughter of the late Daniel Bertram Smith and Bernice H. (Peck) Smith. She went to elementary and junior high school in Seekonk before graduating from East Providence High School in 1951.
After moving on to college for a brief time, she returned home, met Albert H. Baker, Jr., and fell in love, later marrying on Feb. 15, 1954 at Grace Episcopal Church in Providence. Call that sweet symmetry, as the couple’s four children – Janneane L. (Baker) Randall, Jonathan L. Baker, Jill L. Baker and Jeremy L. Baker – all were baptized there.
Even before raising the quartet with love and wisdom, she decided after Jeremy’s birth to return to school to become a teacher. Just before her youngest began school, she started at Rhode Island College and later earned a Bachelor’s of Elementary Education in 1973, though she also minored in another passion, theatre.
The following year, she began teaching first grade at North Elementary School in north Seekonk, and in the interim attended night school at RIC to gain a Master’s of Education with an emphasis in reading in 1978.
Throughout that teaching tenure, which lasted until her retirement in 1997, her former students reveled in her ability to teach them not only about the standards of math, spelling and reading, but also nature and life. Baker almost always would have a guinea pig in her classroom, and every weekend, she made sure every one of them would bring them home to care for.
One year, Elaine even captured the North School Teachers’ Award as the “Best Tooth Puller.”
So adored was “Mrs. Baker” at North School, ex-student Michelle Longbottom Lopes chose earlier this summer to inform Elaine’s eldest, Jan, to ask her thoughts about contacting other students and get them to congregate for a photo in front of their old school. She also wanted them all to write Facebook messages to her as she battled cancer.
The tandem made it happen, and the remembrances thrilled Elaine to know the impact she had on their lives.
Following her retirement, Elaine moved to Florida – as her parents had – to enjoy life, and she did with her favorite hobbies of swimming, knitting, reading, solving crosswords, singing family songs with her kids and grandchildren, watching Jeopardy! and napping. For decades, she loved watching both the Pawtucket Red Sox in person and the Boston Red Sox on NESN.
She rarely missed a game. Even when she moved away, she would watch the Patriots and Bruins when they were on TV. The same goes for tennis and golf, as well as romance movies on Lifetime.
She is survived by younger sister Marjorie Smith Jenkins of Utah and brother Daniel G. Smith of Seekonk; and her children and spouses, Janneane and Robert Randall of Seekonk; Jonathan and Brenda Baker of Pawtucket; Jill Baker and Tony Gore of Cranston; Jeremy and Maggie Baker of Vero Beach; and Maria Sparsis and Randy Hagood of Vero Beach.
She is also survived by grandchildren Allison Randall; Leila M. (Lawrence) and Kristopher Hoy; Andrew C. Randall and Meredith J. (Lawrence) and Joshua Salmon; great-grandchildren Welton Baker Hoy and Beatrix Elaine Salmon; step great-grandchildren Alleysia and Aislynn Hoy; and dozens of other family members and friends.
“My beautiful grandma passed away, and I can’t imagine a world without her,” said Meredith. “She taught me so much. She instilled in me a love for reading and naps, and was an incredible listener, comforter and provider of unconditional love.
“She was my matron of honor, my daughter’s namesake and a best friend,” she added. “Though I know she was ready to go, I wish I had an infinite amount of time with her. Loads of love, Gram! I will miss you forever!”
A private memorial service is still being planned by her family. Her ashes will be scattered next to her late husband’s under the blue spruce tree at the family homestead’s lot.
In Lieu of flowers we respectfully request that donations in Elaine’s memory be made to Community Autism Resources, where Elaine volunteered for over 10 years. Donations can be mailed to Community Autism Resources 40-A Dean St. Taunton, MA.