Roger Baker spent his last day on earth with his wife – talking on the porch, eating fresh peaches, laughing and walking in the autumn sunshine. The man who was loved by his wife, seven kids, 24 grandkids, five great-grandkids, colleagues, friends and neighbors, died Sept. 28, 2017.
Roger Grant Baker was born at a young age — as he always said— in Salt Lake City on Dec. 20, 1942, to Rachel Jackson Baker and Grant Watkins Baker. He was the oldest of five children.
During his childhood, Roger often fell asleep at night listening to his parents’ music. His dad was an original member of the Utah Symphony Orchestra and his mom played piano, violin and organ. Roger played the clarinet in the Utah National Guard band for six years. Of his military service he said, “You can inflict a lot of pain with a clarinet.”
Roger lent his tenor voice to performances at churches, concert halls and campfires. He tutored and tortured his kids in piano, violin, bass, cello, trumpet, flute, clarinet, recorder, baritone, harmonica and guitar. Roger also played instruments as varied as the spoons, saw, nose flute, jaw harp, tin whistle, kazoo, ukulele and tongue drum. He joked that he played the radio best.
Roger served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Southwest British Mission. He returned to England at least a dozen times to do research, vacation with his family, teach for BYU and visit friends he had made as a missionary.
Roger met his wife, Pamela Metcalf, at the University of Utah when a friend asked if Pam’s VW bug could fit a group of rain-soaked college students. After the ride, Pam first turned Roger down for a date – thinking he was way too forward – she later relented. They married on March 21, 1966, in the Salt Lake Temple.
Roger often said his dream job was as a professional student. He spent his life in colleges and universities. At the University of Utah he crammed a four-year bachelor’s degree into five years studying history, psychology, sociology, political science and geography. He earned a master’s degree (U of U) and a doctorate (BYU) in educational psychology. He always said he was the kind of doctor who didn’t do any good.
Roger spent his career as a professor and administrator at Snow College, at Brigham Young University in Provo and at BYU Hawaii. He wrote college- and high school-level textbooks for teaching the Bible as literature. For eight years he penned an education column for the Deseret News. He also worked for six years as a columnist for the Sanpete Messenger.
Roger received a Fulbright scholarship that took him to Poland and Czechoslovakia. He spent time doing research at Yale University and worked as a post-doctorate at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
Roger was brilliant — driven by knowledge and ideas. As well as studying in ivory towers, he enjoyed doing homework with his kids in the same place he graded papers— on the carpet in front of the fireplace. He could provide insights into anything from basic math, addition, subtraction and guzundas, to advanced geography, literature, writing, algebra and physics.
Roger was interested in everything and his hobbies often followed his kids’ interests. He ran a marathon before running marathons was cool and biked between Ephraim and Salt Lake numerous times. He restored sailboats, pioneer houses, musical instruments, cars and bikes. He could fix or build anything.
Roger served in church as the conductor who stirred the music and the nonconformist who stirred the pot. Among his many callings he served as a teacher, bishop, Scoutmaster, high councilman, and temple worker. In all his callings, as in the rest of his life, he rarely wore appropriate attire. He looked on people’s hearts, not their appearances.
Roger and Pam each grew up in Salt Lake, but they grew together while raising their seven kids in Ephraim, a community where they rarely locked doors, knew everyone, socialized at the hardware store, and never grew tired of watching sheep walking down the main drive.
Roger is survived by his wife, Pamela Ann Metcalf Baker, and their seven children: Michelle (Keith) Willmore, Mark Roger (Jennifer) Baker, Jill (Jerry) Johnson, Brian Grant (Tiffanie), Matthew John (Anna), Jay Bradley (Michelle), and Amy (Chris) Mason. He leaves a legacy of great humor and bad puns to his 24 grandkids and five great grandkids. He will be missed by his brother Kent Jackson (Julie) Baker and his sisters Beverly (Kenneth) Crocket, and Elise (Rick) Hellstrom.
Roger was preceded in death by his parents, Grant and Rachel Baker, and his brother, Craig Jackson Baker.
Before his death, Roger asked that his political affiliation be changed to Republican. He said the state couldn’t afford to lose another Democrat.
Family and friends celebrated Roger’s life with funeral services Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.
In memory of Roger and in lieu of flowers, please donate to the LDS Humanitarian Aid Fund, the LDS Perpetual Education Fund, or the Utah Democratic Party.