FEB Eulogy – Feb 11, 2017

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Hello everyone, for those of you that don’t know me I am John Baker, Frank Baker’s son, and thank you for coming out today and showing your support.  It means a lot to all of us.

Right after my father passed away a friend of mine sent me a great quote — it said basically “no one should be afraid of dying, our biggest fear should be never living.”

We definitely don’t have that problem with Dad — he did more before he was 35 than most people imagine doing in a lifetime.

And this isn’t a boast, it is a gift.  This means we can celebrate his life and do what he’d most want us to do — learn from it to make our own lives richer.

Most of us know that he was CEO of Andersen Group, but did you know he was hired as CEO at the age of 30 and held that job for over 45 years — even though the offer letter clearly states it was only a 2-year contract?

In 1959 Andersen Labs was a tiny electronics manufacturing company making components for missile guidance systems in West Hartford CT.

One story I heard was that when an important defense contractor came through to evaluate the company, he had  my mom and his neighbors from Farmington fill out the back benches to make the company look big enough to get the contract.  It must have worked, he took the company public as as “space stock” and then diversified by building it into a holding company that bought and sold over 10 other companies over the years.

In 1997, just before turning 70, he took Andersen into the newly opened up Russian market.

He partnered with some other big names in US private equity and took a controlling stake in a small Titanium manufacturer. As this company was rolled up into Russia’s largest Titanium manufacturer, he found himself sparring with some of Russia’s most famous oligarchs, and at a time when their power was unparalleled.

In 2000 he took over a business that had a contract with the Mayor of Moscow to bring cable broadband to the city.  He raised foreign and local investment and when he sold that business in 2007, he sold all of the assets of Andersen Group with it.

And that is how he then made time to work on a little storm ravaged condominium association, Baytree, in Vero.

It is an incredible set of achievements, and demonstrates a successful career, but I don’t think we should be content to just remember what he did, we should work a little harder and try to capture who he was.

There is no doubt Dad was confident and capable, but he was also adventurous.

During the summer between his two years at business school, he and his French roommate got a set of sponsors to buy them an MG convertible so they could drive it from Boston to Rio de Janeiro.  Remember it was 1954.  There weren’t highways between New York and Chicago, much less Lima and La Paz. Armed with only a set of press credentials Dad got from someone, they drove through areas controlled by communist guerrillas in Guatemala and witnessed the revolution that followed.

While they were in Brazil, the dictator of 30 years died and Dad used his press pass to take pictures of the funeral and file them with the US papers.

And this entire trip was just 100 days over the summer break.

Obviously it helps on your adventures to be charismatic and Dad could definitely be convincing.

As an undergraduate trying to get on the Harvard Lampoon he convinced a group of friends it would be a good idea to “borrow” a 300-pound granite punch bowl from the Crimson (the grown up student paper at Harvard), and present it to the Mayor of Boston … while pretending to be a student group from Boston College!  It didn’t take long for the mayor to realize it was joke, and they all laughed with the journalists covering the event.  Yes, he made the Lampoon, and, yes, he made front page of the Boston papers.

There was something else that Dad cared about greatly and that was family.

When I think of my time growing up I’m always amazed to think of how incredibly active we all were.

When we went camping, we didn’t pull the car up to a nice camp site by a lake. We loaded up the station wagon – we called it the Momma Wagon — with dad, Karen, 6 kids, a couple friends, dogs, packs, boots, and parked at a trail head somewhere near North Conway and walked into the White Mountains for a week. Everyone carried a pack — big kids carried big packs, little kids carried little packs, the completely shocked Parisian daughter of his old roommate carried a pack, even Oliver, our golden retriever, had a doggie pack to carry his food.

Most week-ends we would work on the house on Deercliff road.  It was a great house and Dad loved making it better.  He was demanding as a general contractor, definitely.  I can clearly remember the light flipping on ‪at 8 am no matter what time I got dropped off the night before.  A bowl of Raisin Brand and Grape Nuts, instant coffee, and onto the day’s program.

We’d build stone walls.  We’d put up fences.  We cut the lawn with a golf course style gang reel mower you had to run behind hoping it didn’t pull you into the woods or off the cliff.

One summer he cleared an area of small brush and planted some meadow seed in order to create an “Alpine Swale.”  I’m still not sure that an Alpine Swale is real thing, but we created one and we loved it.  And when he would entertain folks from the YPO or family friends he’d say, “look, we’ve made an alpine swale.  Let me tell you what happens when you plant 1,000 crown vetch upside down — you get to plant them again!”

Dad loved doing things with lots of people, especially family.

And he didn’t stop at the immediate family but brought in extended family and friends.  And friends’ families. Even ex’s, ex’s new partners and their families.  He was always inviting everyone up to do something.  He was incredibly inclusive.

This is because for families to be families they have to spend time together — and of course it being Dad that meant all of us, all together.

Together at night for dinner. Together every holiday week-end. Together around a campfire.  Together on a 40-foot sailboat.

And we’d be together when he’d turn the spotlight on one of us with a classic set of 50 questions.  That got intense, it has to be said, but I believe it is because he wanted to know us. it was because he wanted to make us stronger.

When he got back to owning sailboats, he first bought a C&C 38 called Finesse and later the Swan 47 Commotion that he and Karen lived on for years. And he would bring as many people as he could get on those boats.

He’d say bring your friends, bring your boyfiriend, bring your roommate.  Or sometimes you’d find your friends sailing with Dad and Karen when you were somewhere else working!

Of course the first thing he would generally do is go straight out to sea and start practicing mark rounding and spinnaker driills, completely oblivious to the fact that the boyfriend or roommate was turning an obscure shade of green.

Yes, it was his agenda but the trips were amazing.

Marblehead to Maine, Newport to Bermuda, Antigua to St Lucia, across the Atlantic, Gibraltar to Majorca — these were epic trips he made happen for himself, but also something he gave to us.

And it carries on with his grand kids also telling stories of sailing trips on the next generation of boats.

His love of including everyone is why he and Karen bought the house in Farmington, Eight Bells, that was big enough to hold us all, and why as the grandkids got older he added a family room over the garage.

This meant they could host Memorial Day barbecues and big Thanksgiving week-ends.  He could bring everyone together and watch the kids learn to swim, teach them to use a bow and arrow, or, of course, do yard work.

When you consider Dad & Karen owned that house for nearly 20 years, you see there is a set of kids that grew up going there.

Confident.  Capable.  Charismatic.  Adventurous. Active. Inclusive. Driven. Successful.

These are the words that bring Dad back for me.

And if you are looking for that overarching lesson you can take from his life, I’d say it is simple: “it isn’t what you have that matters, it is what you do with it.”

Dad knew how to get a lot from everything he was given and everything he earned.  He was a great father, an inspiring grandfather, and an amazing man.

And we have proof he would not want us to be glum today.  As we reviewed his files we came across a hand written text from 2006 titled Funeral Preparation.  He wrote,

“I had a great life.  No sickness, did everything I wanted.  I have wonderful children, a fantastic wife who I love very much and I made a few bucks.  I would not ask for more, so lets celebrate!”

 

 

 

FEB – Cambridge to Rio de Janeiro – 1954

As we pulled together the service we gathered a bunch of photographs.  In the process we found a couple of us had different scans from Dad and Jerry Fabry’s trip from Boston to Rio.  I also found out the 5 spolnsors that covered a lot of the expenses of the trip:  Norfield Imports, Castrol Oil, Dunlop Tires, Lucas Electrics, and Judson Superchargers.

 

 

 




 

 

Francis E. Baker – An Amazing Life Worth Remembering

I’m looking forward to doing a few family posts in the next few weeks and months, and cleaning up this blog.  We can learn a lot from what people have done especially when their lives were as full of adventure and action as my Dad’s life.  And it is a given the most respect you can give someone is to remember their stories.
It also struck me that putting all of the memories up on Facebook is a pretty precarious move when you think of the longer term.   When the company decides to pivot and focus on virtual reality experiences, all of our beautiful text will be relegated to a small achive link in the footer.

I don’t think this old wordpress blog is likely to see that kind of change and should be pretty stable until we can get the memories into something really cool like a leather covered book.

Francis E. Baker Obituary
Francis E. Baker, a pioneer in technology manufacturing, dies at 87.

Francis Ellsworth Baker, a pioneer in technology manufacturing, passed away peacefully on January 31, 2017 at 87 years of age after a brief illness. He was in Vero Beach, FL, surrounded by his wife and family.

As the CEO of Andersen Group, a venture capital firm, for nearly 50 years, Mr. Baker invested in and managed a series of businesses that brought new technology to their industries.

In the 60s he manufactured rocket guidance systems as part of the space race. In the 70s he developed time base correctors used in early TV. In the 80s he ran a business pioneering medical imaging. At the end of his career, he helped build out the cable network that provides internet connectivity across Moscow, Russia.

A hands on and charismatic leader, Mr. Baker took an active role in his investments building teams and securing contracts personally. His energy brought people together and helped them achieve exceptional goals. His approach was inclusive and he believed in creating a calm, clear environment to work through issues before acting on a decision.

His desire to capitalize on new opportunities was matched by a strong adventuresome spirit.

As early as 1954, while still a business school student, he and his French roommate, Jerry Fabry, secured a series of sponsors and drove an MG convertible from Boston to Rio de Janeiro filing newspaper articles during the trip and doing a speaking tour afterwards.

In 1978 just after the new Department of Energy created the Geothermal Loan Guaranty Program, Mr. Baker invested in Geothermal Food Processors, an onion drying plant in Fernley Nevada.

In 1997, as Glasnost opened up Russia, Mr Baker joined a small group of other Western investors buying a company that became part of VSMPO, the world’s largest producer of Titanium. This led him to explore both Russia’s undeveloped roads and it’s newly developing legal infrastructure as well.

Frank carried this spirit of adventure into his personal life.

He and his wife Karen took the family hiking across the White Mountains, skiing in Vermont and Colorado, and sailing on the New England coast. For eight years Karen and Frank lived on a Swan 48 sailing over 20,000 miles through the Caribbean, across the Atlantic and in Europe. His passion for sailing has carried on in his children and grandchildren.

Born in New York City, Mr. Baker attended Harvard College graduating cum laude in 1951 and was a member of the Phoenix Club, an editor of the Harvard Lampoon and part of the Hasty Pudding. He served as a Lieutenant in the US Navy, and graduated from Harvard Business School in 1955.  Having been appointed CEO at the age of 30, he was proud to be a member and active in the Young President’s Organization (YPO).  He also an active member of the New York Yacht Club and former member of the Eastern Yacht Club. Later in life he supported the Underhill Society and was a member of the Society of Colonial Wars.

He lived in Farmington and Avon Connecticut for over 30 years before relocating to Vero Beach, FL, in 1992 and for seven years he was President of the Baytree Condominium Association.

He is survived by his wife, Karen Baker; his 6 children, Lucy Patricola, Cynthia Johnson, Godfrey Baker, Kim Dyson, John Baker and Kristen Stewart; and his 11 grandchildren, Zachary, Hannah, Tommy, Nathan, Sarah, Robbie, Alex, Nick, Sary, Will, and Macy; and his former wife Patricia Barry Baker.

Services will be held at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Vero Beach, FL, on February 11 at 11:00 am with a reception following at the Baytree Clubhouse. A second memorial will be held in Farmington, CT, later in the Spring. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Published in The Hartford Courant from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5, 2017

– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hartfordcourant/obituary.aspx?n=francis-e-baker&pid=183928659#sthash.GjWhs5Hd.dpuf

And quite an amazing location at the end of the business section.  I guess calling the newsdesk and besieging the obit team worked.

Thank you to the Hartford Courant.

 

Ulf Lundell Memorial – Love & Recognition

These are the comments I made at Ulf’s Memorial.  It was an easy topic to choose given the number of projects we did together and the projects I watched him do with others.

Love and recognition

“Love and recognition” That was what Ulf would ask for when he agreed to put in hundreds of hours on the various projects we all did on our houses or boats or cars.

“Ba, I’m retired. Sonja and I don’t need to make the money.  We do this work for love and recognition.”         And wine.  He also worked for wine — but then again wine can also drive love and recognition.

These weren’t small projects.  With Tom he rebuilt a broken down shed into a fully insulated and heated studio for Veronica.  With Christina he renovated her studio with new closets and granite counter tops.  With me there were lots of projects when we came back from London, but the biggest we did together was putting in a kitchen. An IKEA kitchen, of course which we did over a couple weeks with Sonja and Christina’s support.

It isn’t hard to understand why he did the projects – he loved building things.  Loved figuring out how to make it work.  He loved really getting to know the people he worked with because when you take on a big project — whether it is a kitchen or deciding to build a frame for a 34-foot Silverton cabin cruiser so you can ship it to Sweden — you really get to know the people you do it with.

But it was also pride.  Pride in starting and finishing.  The recognition from people that think you are insane when you talk about what you are doing and what you’ve done.  

When I left our old leaky wooden sailboat in Vasteras for the winter, he would check on it every trip back and sign off his emails as “Lundell Boat Service, Northern European Division, Vasteras Branch.” Thnk about that.  He wasn’t Ulf Lundell, the retired former President of Linden Alimak Cranes, he was Ulf Lundell, Service Manager of the boat yard.  He loved it.  He could go down and sit on the bench in front of the coffee place – he called it the liars bench – and tell them he was restoring a 1966 Storebro Havsornen II sailboat.  He could tell them how we would sail it across the archipelago, across the Baltic, across the Urals, across Sibaria and sail it all the way to Tokyo!  Why not?  They all knew it was the liar’s bench.

I think I’m quite lucky because I get to think about Ulf all of the time.  I get to think about him when I look at the mast he varnished.  When I barbque on the patio he built.  And of course every time I walk through our kitchen.

Love and recognition.  He really got and deserved both.