ODE TO MY FATHER Nov.Newsletter

December 09, 2003

My Father died this month and even though he was old and not in the best of shape; I am inconsolable.
So I have decided to tell you about my father instead of my trips and teaching news. I will just get this out of my system and then I will get back to a normal newsletter. Dad was a complex man and a difficult father at times but it wasn't until he was gone that I realized the legacy he left to me was a true gift and that he was a great influence in my life.
I wish you all the very best of the holidays and beyond all that I wish you peace.
Enjoy your family and above all treasure the time together. Love Judith

Here is the copy of his obituary as it appeared in the local papers;

Obituary For James Allen Baker....March 23, 1920 to November 20, 2003

Funeral services were held at the High River Memorial Center on November 26th, 2003 to honour the passing of Colonel James Allen Baker. age 83.

Over 600 neighbours, friends and family gatherd to pay tribute to one of Alberta's most colourful and outstanding citizens.

The gathered crowd represented all walks of life from those in the ranching, farming and business communities to the elders of the Eden Valley Reserve and all surrounding Hutterite colonies.
Officiated by Reverend Jeff Enfield of the Church of Christ, Nanton, it was a joyful celebration and testament to a man who made a difference to all that knew him, confirmed in a eulogy by Don Edey, ( son of old friend Mervin Edey) and tributes by Marie Walters of the C.C. Colony, daughter Judith Baker Montano and neighbour Harvey Gardner.

J. Allen's longtime affiliation and respect for the native people was honoured by six traditional dancers from the Bearspaw Band of the Eden Valley Reserve and Council, who preceded the casket adorned with a saddle blanket, Stetson hat, a bouquet of wheat and a pack of his favorite cigars. The casket was flanked by nine of his grandsons. A floral arrangements of red roses and white carnations spelled out the BAR U brand, as tribute to his great influence in Canadian ranching history.

James Allen Baker, better known as "Thunder" because of his booming voice and colourful language had a great love for music. Those gathered honoured this by singing two of his favorite songs " Red River Valley" and "It is No Secret".

The Burles Brothers and Mark Schauer gave tribute to J. Allern by singing "Go Rest High On That Mountain" followed by son Jim Baker who sang his original song "The Mighty Ranch Bar U", accompanied by George Blake.

After the funeral service everyone gathered for refreshments, fellowship and stories about James Allen Baker. A Wake soon followed with musicians, friends and family gathering to sing and reminisce about the man who touched all of their lives. It was the perfect ending to a special celebration.
The following morning his family gathered at the Cayley Cemetary where he was laid to rest beside his baby sister Agnes Baker. It was his lifelong request to be buried there because he would keep her company and have a great view of the mountains.
Reverend Bob Slocolmbe of Cayley led the family in prayers and gave a heart- felt farewell. His words were especially poignant as he had known James Allen Baker for many years. The air was crisp and clear with his beloved Rocky Mountains gleaming in the Alberta sunshine. A lone Highland piper played "Amazing Grace" as a parting tribute to a dear father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, neighbour and friend.

James Allen Baker was born March 23, 1920 to Bessie and James Baker in High River, Alberta. He spent his childhood on the family farm northeast of Cayley. At the age of twenty-two he boarded a bus in Cayley and headed for Decatur, Indiana to attend the Reppert School of Auctioning, earning the title of Colonel James Allen Baker and a degree in livestock judging and a pedigree study. By his mid twenties he had gathered a small registered Hereford herd. He married Joyce Van Winkle in 1944 and purchased the McNerney farm south of High River.
At the age of 24 he became the youngest ever autioneer at the Calgary Bull Sale going on for another 23 years to become the senior auctioneer and one of the greatest purebred Hereford auctioneers of all time. He served with auctioning legends Colonel Hitchner, Archie Boyce, Clarence (C.F.) Dameron, Jery Going and Harry Hays. After a long a successful career he gained the respect and admiration of his peers and was presented with a lifetime membership in the Auctioneers Association of Canada.

J.Allen had a great love for rodeo and when a young man participated whenever he could. He competed in calf roping and saddle bronc riding for many years which stood him in good stead when he purchased the Bar U ranch in 1950. He owned the Bar U for twenty-seven successful years, the longest of any owner in Bar U history.

He achieved outstanding success as a cattleman raising a prize herd of Hereford cattle on the Bar U Ranch. He became known as a great judge of cattle and was often consulted. In 1965 he was chosen by Minister of Agriculture Harry Hays to participate in the Canadian Government's Charolais cattle import program. He was sent to France to choose quality Charolais and became one of sixty-seven qualified Canadian cattle breeders selected for import permits. He made several trips to Fance, Switzerland and Italy in search of quality stock. This program opened the door to at least twenty-eight European breeds with Col. James Allen Baker as a leading expert in "Exotic Cattle".
James Allen Baker had a lifetime love for horses. In the late 1950's he was one of the first to bring in a registered Quarter Horse herd from the King Ranches in Texas whose bloodlines included Three Bars and Leo. From this foundation stock he became known for his quality working Quarter Horses and was a leader in the Canadian Quarter Horse industry.

He built up a succccessful breeding program through his association with long time friend, auctioneer and horseman, Jerry Going. Their quarter horse stallions Beau Champ and Doc Continental made history.

Through Jerry Going, J. Allen became interested in Thoroughbred horses and together they made annual visits to the Woodbine Thoroughbred sale. He eventually owned majority shares in the stallion Bold Ruckus and went on to own a string of Thoroughbred mares such as Bar U Mood.

Col. James Allen Baker joined the High River Masons in 1952, serving as Worshipful Master in 1963. He was the driving force behind the construction of the new Masonic Temple in High River. He was an early member of the Cayley Odd Fellows.

He was a fabled storyteller with a great sence of humour and community pride. He was famous for his ability to recite and took part in the Longview Players for several years.

He was a great sportsman and hunter successfully completing the "Canadian Slam" ( Dahl, Bighorn and Stone sheep). He played host to friends throughout Canada and the United States on his annual fall bird hunts. He greatly enjoyed salmon fishing on the West Coast and trips to northern Alberta and Saskatchewan for walleye and trout. His favorite fishing stream, the Pekisko creek, conveniently ran through the Bar U Ranch.

Above all he loved his family and enjoyed his many grandchildren. To them he gave his greatest gift...the chance to be part of his life.
He will be greatly mourned by his eight children: Christine Nyberg (Gary), Cathy Orthner (Don), Gloria Baker, Joy Malmberg (Don Kohut), Jim Baker (Karen), Karen Osatchuk (Dan), Judith Baker Montano (Ernest Shealy), Bob Myers ( Betty).
He is survived by eighteen grandchildren: Nathan Nyberg, Ashley Nyberg, Brandon Nyberg; Chet Orthner, Jaymen Orthner, Shaydon Orthner; Renai Thompson (Allen), Sheldon Malmberg, Lindsey Magaw (Dave), Jamie Malmberg (Joe Sheridan); Kendra Baker(Billy Oulton); Regan Osatchuk, Blake Osatchuk; Jason Montano (Brenda), Madeleine Montano (Brian Kesselman); Barry Myers (Barbara), Bradley Myers (Ronda), Brandy Odonnell (Patrick).
His legacy is passed on to twelve great grandchildren.
He will be greatly missed by his nieces and nephews: Fay Walker (Tom), Frances Lange (Stuart), Patrick Meagher (Lori), John Meagher (Leslie) and Jim Meagher (Shari).

His parents James and Bessie Baker, sisters Agnes Baker and Lola Baker Meagher, and great grandson Ty Odonnell, predeceased him.

The family of Col. James Allen Baker wishes to thank Snodgrass Funeral Home and all those who made the service so memorable. A heartfelt thank you goes to all that attended making it such a beautiful celebration.
Col. James Allen Baker will be long remembered in local lore and his name will go down in Canadian ranching history.
Dear Dad;
Although I miss you so very much I am grateful that you are no longer in pain and I believe you are in a better place. Above all you can rest now, free of the worries that came with a big ranch and an even bigger family. Grandma and Grandpa and your sisters must be so happy to have you with them.
I know you are catching up with your old friends and the stories are flying back and forth, gathering embellishments with every telling. The checkers and the cribbage board are being put to good use and the perfume of pipe and cigar smoke laces the air.
It must be wonderful to be with all the good horses who went before you; Doc, Big Red,Tangle, all of them. Say hello to Leo and Lady for me and give Tolo a hug. By now you have been out riding through the cattle, checking the fence line, enjoying the views. How good it must feel to be pain free, springing into the saddle like a young man.
I am sure the grass is belly deep and the skies are azure blue where you ride now. Blaze, Spike, and Lassie are there to run along side, flushing out the odd grouse or pheasant, just perfect for a good meal.
Be happy Dad and thank you for the memories.

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