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Joseph Baker

December 26, 1938 — November 12, 2023

Joseph Baker

Surrounded by his loving family, Joseph Orestes Baker, 84, passed away in the early hours of Sunday, Nov. 12, at his longtime home in Sandy. Born the day after Christmas, 1938, to R.O. and June Baker, Joe’s life was one of perpetual motion and boundless energy. Blessed with uncommon good health, he never stayed a night in a hospital, with the exception of elective knee surgery, until the stroke he suffered earlier this year.

Joe grew up in Draper, Utah, earned his Eagle Scout award by the time he was 14, attended Jordan High School (Class of 1957), where he played catcher on the baseball team, trumpet in the band, and won trophies as a champion debater. After high school he attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and worked as a fingerprint technician for the FBI before interrupting his schooling to accept a call to the Swiss-Austrian Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The affinity he gained for the people he served and the language they spoke laid the foundation for his future. He majored in German at the University of Utah, then was accepted into graduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he received his doctorate in German language and literature and German dialects. After graduating with honors, he accepted an offer to join the faculty and teach German at BYU.

Early on in his tenure as a professor he traveled with 71 students to Salzburg, Austria – his old mission stomping grounds – to spend a semester there immersed in the local culture. The trip was a resounding success, prompting BYU leaders to ask Dr. Baker to organize what became the school’s International Studies program. He directed BYU Study Abroad for 11 years before returning to his first love, teaching in the classroom. In 1988, he was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Grant by the U.S. State Department. He spent eight weeks as a Senior Fulbright Scholar, mingling with fellow international students in Dresden, Germany.

Upon retirement from BYU after 35 years, Joe immediately applied to serve as a volunteer for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games. Like everything else he did in life, he treated the assignment like a full time job. When the Olympics arrived, he was assigned, of course, to the German delegation. In the Paralympics that followed he hosted the Austrian team.

In Sandy City he became a volunteer fixture. In 2001 he was named Outstanding Citizen, in 2004 he received the Noal Bateman Service Award, the city’s highest honor given to residents for service to their community, and In 2016 he was recognized for his 16 consecutive years on the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee.

Joe loved to travel, loved to ride his bike, loved to ski, loved to hike to the top of every peak he saw. He had an enormous fondness for BYU sports. He bought season basketball tickets the year the Marriott Center opened in 1971 and never gave them up. All Joe had to do was back his car out of his driveway in Sandy and it would practically steer itself the 35 miles to the Marriott Center or LaVell Edwards Stadium. Every spring, Joe and his son, Matt, would organize a trip to Las Vegas to watch the Cougars play in the conference basketball tournament.

He had a gift for connecting with people, always welcoming anyone and everyone into his orbit. He touched lives as an LDS bishop. In 2008, when Real Salt Lake moved into its new stadium in Sandy just a block from his house, he opened his yard up for parking. He turned running a parking lot into a social activity. He made hundreds of friends, remembered everyone’s name, and through the years never raised his price (five bucks a car).

He did it all with his constant companion, confidant and love of his life, his wife Karen Leonard Baker. Married in the Salt Lake Temple on Nov. 22, 1961, they were wed just two weeks shy of 62 years. Joe is survived by Karen, his sons Randy and Matt and his daughter Paula, by their spouses Tori, Jenny, and Matthew Jeffers, by ten grandchildren: Hannah, Travis, Colby, Spencer, Ethan, Jeremiah, Alex, Isaac, Elsie and Daxton, and nine great grandchildren: Lucas, Garrett, William, Ettalee, Sawyer, Thalia, Halt, Idalynne and Noah. He is also survived by his sisters Bonnie and CuQee and his brother Phil. Funeral services will be held Monday, Nov. 27 at 11 a.m. in the LDS Pioneer Ward, 8680 South 220 East, Sandy. A viewing will be held Sunday, Nov. 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Goff Mortuary, 8090 South State, Midvale and from 10-10:45 a.m. the day of the service. Burial at Sandy City Cemetery, 700 East 9000 South. Sandy.

Service will be streamed starting at 11 a.m on Monday, November 27th at www.thepioneerward.com

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Sunday, November 26, 2023

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Monday, November 27, 2023

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Monday, November 27, 2023

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