Westfield (Mass.) High School graduation photo - June, 1969An Elegy for Debbie

by Alan C. Baird - January 6, 2003

Debbie Baker and I sat next to each other in homeroom, and engaged in wonderful, wide-ranging conversations each morning. During the course of my high-school senior year, I slowly fell in love with her. I often told my good friend, Jim: "If Debbie ever shows the slightest romantic interest in me, I'll be a goner." I still have a snapshot of her, taken at one of Jim's barbecues. And my heart still skips a beat whenever I look at that picture... even now, three decades later.

We went on one date -- to see the Harlem Globetrotters -- and it was a fiasco. I was hoping to impress her with my father's old Triumph sports car, but the d*mn thing broke down. Dad had been promising all week to perform a crucial maintenance on the TR3, and he'd forgotten to do it. So I had to call my parents from thirty miles away to pick us up, and I fumed all the way back. When we arrived at her house, my mother leaned over from the front seat and urged me to walk her to the front door, but I was so mad, I just sat there and pouted.

When May rolled around, Jim and I began desperately seeking dates for the Senior Prom, and finally identified two forgettable junior girls. A few days later, Debbie admitted that she hadn't been asked, during one of our casual homeroom conversations. SH*T!! I didn't want to renege on my promise to the other girl, so I checked around, and finally convinced Bert, another buddy, to invite her. In retrospect, I don't think I had to do much arm-twisting. Debbie was a sweetheart, and any one of us would have been lucky to have her at his side.

Yes, a sad eMail just arrived: Debbie died on December 23, 2002.

"Elegy" [January 27, 2003]

Debbie was the unattainable golden girl, but she listened attentively to my teenage angst, and could always be relied upon to lead the cheers at our sporting events. During the spring cotillion, I desperately envied the lucky teammate who was chosen to be her squire.

Those memories feel so fresh, and yet a certain number of years must have slipped away unnoticed, because the jowly face in my bathroom mirror is but a woeful caricature of its yearbook photo. And all that remains of our sparkling Debbie are these sad waves of messages, spreading the news that she's gone, she's really gone.

San Diego Union-Tribune (January 14, 2003): A memorial service for Deborah A. Baker, former communications director of the Girl Scouts San Diego-Imperial Council, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Loma Riviera Association clubhouse, 3115 Loma Riviera Drive, San Diego. Ms. Baker, 51, died of cancer Dec. 23. She was honored last year as "Public Relations Professional of the Year" by the San Diego chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. The society had elected her to a one-year term of president to begin December 2003.

Director of Communications - Girl ScoutsGirl Scouts:

The local Girl Scout community lost a dear member of its family this past holiday season. Deborah Baker, Director of Communications at Girl Scouts, San Diego-Imperial Council for the past eight years, passed away on December 23, 2002 after a hard-fought battle against cancer.

Ms. Baker was admired and loved by Girl Scout staff, volunteers and parents for her creative ideas, inspiring leadership, extraordinary instincts on contemporary girl issues, the Council and the community, and for her witty sense of humor. She motivated those around her to set their sights higher and be the best they could be - and have fun, all the while. The standards of excellence she set for herself and the Council resulted in a highly acclaimed organization that is better positioned to reach and serve girls.

Because of her groundbreaking work, Ms. Baker was also highly respected by both the Girl Scouts of the USA and the public relations community. GSUSA often looked to Ms. Baker's innovative projects and campaigns as examples for the Girl Scout movement, and her work is one of the reasons San Diego-Imperial Council is considered among the nation's best.

Her peers in Public Relations regarded Ms. Baker as one of the most gifted in the field. She was named San Diego's Public Relations Professional of the Year in 2001-2002. She earned 12 Edward L Bernays Awards for Excellence in Public Relations over the past five years, something in which she took great pride.

Among the many accomplishments for which she was recognized in 2001-2002 was the successful lease extension on the Balboa property. Ms. Baker was instrumental in setting the course for the lease extension, and her efforts will be a legacy to girls as they enjoy the property and programs and Balboa Service Center for the next 40 years. But the project for which she will probably be most remembered is Operation Thin Mint. Ms. Baker was the inspiration and creative force behind the community service project that resulted in a "Mission Accomplished." Over 113,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies and thousands of letters were successfully delivered to military personnel deployed around the world. She considered the overwhelming response from the Girl Scout community, residents of San Diego and Imperial counties and the military as one of the greatest rewards of her career.

Ms. Baker's tireless work on behalf of the girls throughout San  Diego and Imperial counties made a tremendous impact on the girls, the Council and the community. She will be missed greatly by all who knew her, and by the countless people whose lives she touched. Goodbye, dear friend.

A gift in Deb Baker's name can be made to Girl Scouts, San Diego-Imperial Council, and an acknowledgement card will be sent to her parents, Harry and Margaret Baker of Westfield, Mass. Condolences to Deb's parents and her brother, Robert Baker of Syracuse, New York, can be sent c/o Karen Cerveny at Girl Scouts.

San Diego Union-Tribune:

Deborah A. Baker; creative PR director for Girl Scouts

By Jack Williams

December 27, 2002

Deborah A. Baker took the concept "thinking outside the box" to a new level as director of communications for the Girl Scouts San Diego-Imperial Council.

Putting a timely twist on the 2002 Girl Scout Cookie Sale, she devised Operation Thin Mint to treat and comfort U.S. troops aboard. The plan gave cookie buyers in San Diego and Imperial counties the option of sending the boxes to military personnel, along with personal notes expressing their support.

"It resulted in an amazing 113,000-plus boxes of Girl Scout cookies being sent to servicemen and women deployed around the world," said Karen Cerveny, a communications specialist with the Girl Scouts council.

For Ms. Baker, it was an example of the kind of creative energy that resulted in the "Public Relations Professional of the Year" award this year from the San Diego chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Diagnosed with cancer eight months ago, she died Monday at UCSD Thornton Hospital. She was 51.

"She chose to work during her treatment because she loved what she did so much," said Joice Truban-Curry, incoming president of the Public Relations Society. "It gave her tremendous satisfaction and it was a much-needed diversion."

Ms. Baker, who worked until Dec. 19, became director of communications for the Girl Scouts council in 1994. She previously served as a public information officer for the South Bay Union School District, a post she assumed in the late 1980s.

"Those who worked with her say that she made them better," Cerveny said. "Her leadership, motivation and guidance made each person reach further and become the absolute best they could be."

Ms. Baker's Operation Thin Mint, named after a variety of cookie sold by the Girl Scouts, attracted national media attention and inspired responses from the military in the form of letters, mementos and photos.

Ms. Baker also was recognized for spearheading a successful campaign to renew the Girl Scouts council's lease on 15 acres of Balboa Park land, which was approved by the City Council in December 2001.

In April, she organized an innovative recognition event for the Girl Scouts at which the "10 coolest women in San Diego" were saluted.

Adding to her work load with Girl Scouts, Ms. Baker volunteered as a media relations specialist for the American Red Cross and served on the board of the Public Relations Society, which includes nearly 300 San Diego-area public relations professionals. The organization recently elected her president for a one-year term to begin in December 2003.

"Deborah wore a lot of hats," Truban-Curry said. "She's leaving a huge void at the Girl Scouts council and in the PR profession."

Ms. Baker, who lived in a Midway District condominium with her cat, Bean, was born in Westfield, Mass.

She earned a bachelor's degree in English at Mount Holyoke College in Hadley, Mass., and a master's in broadcast journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Before entering the public relations field, she worked in print journalism at the Westfield Evening News and Manchester Journal Inquirer in New England and as a television reporter in Toledo, Ohio.

Survivors include her parents, Harry and Margaret Baker of Westfield, Mass.; and brother, Robert Baker of Syracuse.

Services are pending. Donations are suggested to Heifer International, San Diego Friends of Rescued Animals or the UCSD Cancer Center.

"Fire And Rain"
by James Taylor

Debbie + Alan, standing upper right - June, 1969Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Susanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to

I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

Won't you look down upon me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

Been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around
Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you, baby, one more time again, now

Thought I'd see you one more time again
There's just a few things coming my way this time around, now
Thought I'd see you, thought I'd see you fire and rain, now

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