ELKINS - Local residents paid tribute Monday to the life and service of former Elkins Fire Chief Robert Baker.
Baker, who passed away Sunday at the age of 84, devoted his life to serving the people of Randolph County. After graduating from both Elkins High School and Davis & Elkins College, Baker served in the United States Air Force in the Korean War.
He was a member of the Elkins Fire Department for more than 30 years and served as fire chief from 1986 to 1989 and from 1995 to 1996.
"He loved the fire service," said current Elkins Fire Chief Tom Meader. "It was his life. He was a dedicated man and for those of us who were lucky to have worked under him, he was a role model. He helped make us into what we are today."
Meader said Baker was a good leader and had a good working relationship with Elkins City Council. Meader said Baker was very focused on family oriented service.
"He was always stopping in and visiting after he retired," said Lt. Steve Harris of the Elkins Fire Department. "Younger guys knew who he was and how long he had served. He'd stop in here sometimes three to four times a month."
The Elkins Fire Department plans to honor Baker and his dedication to the department at his memorial services.
"When people put in as much time as he did we want to honor him," Harris said.
Many residents remember Baker for his involvement with Camp Pioneer and the annual Ox-Roast, which he was a part of for each of its 50 years.
"We wanted Bob to be there, particularly at the 50th anniversary, due to his long-time involvement with the event," said Ronnie Helmondollar, extension agent with the Randolph County Office of the West Virginia University Extension Service.
"He handed out the Poultry Award as well as the Helping Hand award to the kids, which we found particularly appropriate because he was always trying to help out. He was always visiting with the kids and sharing his experiences in 4-H with them."
Helmondollar said that Baker was recently inducted into the West Virginia 4-H All-Stars, the highest honor for a 4-H member in the state, for his continuing involvement with the program.
"I knew him as a long-time friend of the family and for his services to the community," Elkins Mayor Van Broughton said. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
"He was a valuable asset to the community both as a volunteer and as a fire chief. His service as well as his presence in the community will be dearly missed."
Baker also worked as maintenance superintendent of The Housing Authority of the City of Elkins, also known as Gateway Apartments, for 18 years.
The family will receive friends at Lohr & Barb Funeral Home of Elkins Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. A life celebration service will be conducted at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church of Elkins. Interment will follow in Maplewood Cemetery at Elkins, where the H.W. Daniel's Post 29 American Legion and Tygart Valley Post 3647 Veterans of Foreign Wars will conduct full military honors.