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BAKER, Gerald L. 1932-2013

BAKER, SMITH, SHANAHAN

Posted By: S. Bell
Date: 1/15/2013 at 02:49:07

[Waterloo Courier, Sunday, January 6, 2013]

CEDAR FALLS ó Gerald L. Baker, 80, of Cedar Falls, formerly of Cresco, died Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, at NewAldaya Lifescapes, Cedar Falls.

He was born Aug. 8, 1932, in rural Cresco, son of Leo J. and Emma A. Smith Baker.

He graduated from Cresco High School in 1950 and earned his bachelorís degree from Iowa State University in 1955. Mr. Baker worked at Chamberlains and then as a math instructor in Iowa and Nebraska. He later was a substitute teacher in the Cedar Falls area.

Survived by a sister, Alice (Patrick) Shanahan of Lakewood, Wash.

Memorial service will be held at a later date. His body has been deeded to the University of Iowa Deeded Body Program.

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[Waterloo Courier, Wednesday, January 9, 2013]

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Gerald "Jerry" Baker, a quixotic perennial political candidate who ran for everything from Cedar Falls school board to president of the United States in the 1970s and early '80s, died Friday. He was 80.

The Cresco native worked at Chamberlain Manufacturing Corp. in Waterloo, taught mathematics and was a typewriter salesman. He was coordinator of Northeast Iowa Mensa, an organization for people with high IQs. He lived for many years in the College Hill area.

While never elected to office, his candidacies triggered the beginnings of some political careers and signaled the end of others.

"Jerry is the reason I got on City Council," said former longtime Cedar Falls City Council member Stan Smith, who had worked with Baker at Chamberlain. In 1977, Smith said he had no intention of running for council, until his wife Irene insisted he do so after seeing the field of candidates for the at-large council seat included Baker. Smith was elected.

"The best description of Jerry you can come up with is he was over-bright," Smith said. "He was a mathematical genius, truly." At Chamberlain, Smith said, Baker could do mathematical calculations in half the time of a previously retained professor. Smith said Baker also would call him at odd hours, "regaling me with some obscure thing he had read in some damn book or another."

"This guy was a cockeyed genius," Smith said of Baker. "He never held it against me for beating him. I more or less gave him the idea to run for higher office."

A few months after his council run, Baker ran against then-incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Clark in the 1978 Democratic primary. Imitating Clark's successful 1972 walk-across-Iowa campaign, Baker walked the streets of Iowa communities with a sandwich-board sign bearing his name and an American flag sticking out of his backpack.

Baker didn't win, but he and another political unknown, Robert Nereim of Des Moines, earned 20 percent of the vote against Clark in the June primary. Seasoned Courier political reporter Bob Case took note, quoting a worried Democratic official that "Dick Clark could be in trouble in November." Cedar Falls native and former Lt. Gov. Roger Jepsen defeated Clark in November.

Baker took his backpack and flag on the road again in 1979-80, running for president. He was highly visible prior to the January Iowa caucuses, frequently appearing at campus demonstrations, both at the University of Northern Iowa during the Iranian hostage crisis, and in a counter-demonstration against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at Iowa State University's C.Y. Stephens Auditorium. Baker ran again in 1984 on the "Big Deal" ticket.

"Gerald was eccentric, but you had to admire the fact he was also principled," said former U.S. Rep. Dave Nagle. "He certainly didn't fly his flag down the middle of the Main Street in terms of political thought, but he was forthright in his beliefs and you have to admire him."

Baker frequently wrote letters to the editor to The Courier, even in later years and failing health.

Baker's body was deeded to the University of Iowa Deeded Body Program.


 

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