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James Kendrick Baker, 81 of Columbus, Indiana entered eternal peace on July 24, 2013. Jim was born on December 21, 1931 to Donald D. and Edith Swain Baker in Wabash, Indiana and was raised in the Irvington neighborhood of Indianapolis. A graduate of Howe High School in 1949, he went on to graduate cum laude from DePauw University in 1953 majoring in mathematics and physics, and serving as president of Sigma Chi fraternity. After serving 2 years in the US Army, Jim received his MBA with distinction from the Harvard Business School in 1958. He spent his entire business career at Arvin Industries, named General Manager of the Arvinyl division in 1964 and President and CEO in 1981, and later named Chairman in 1986. Under Jim’s leadership Arvin was transformed from a domestic conglomeration of separate businesses into a global leader in the automotive parts industry. During this time Jim will also be remembered for his work with the Indiana Senate, Gov. Robert D. Orr and Sen. Robert D. Garton on the Indiana anti-takeover bill of 1985 which was used by companies nationwide to thwart hostile corporate takeovers.
Jim loved the state of Indiana and the community of Columbus. He was active on many boards during his lifetime; Indiana National Bank, PSI Resources, NBD First Chicago, The GEON Company, Amcast Industrial, Cinergy Corporation, Tokheim Corporation, Veridian, Space Industries International and DePauw University. He was elected Chairman of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in 1990 which he always said was “life-changing and brought many unique experiences,” such as playing horseshoes with George H. W. Bush at Camp David and traveling all over the world. Jim donated much of his time improving the U.S. educational system by co-chairing the New American School Development Corporation which aimed to increase collaboration between university presidents and corporate executives. In Indiana, Jim’s work in education was most recently exemplified through his work and contributions to The Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis. Jim received the Trailblazer Award from Tindley in 2012 and along with his wife Beverly; he received the Simms Leadership Award from IUPUC. Jim received 4 Sagamores of the Wabash from the Indiana Governor’s office. Jim was named a Significant Sig in 1992 and later named to the Order of the Constantine in 2007 for his service to Sigma Chi fraternity. Jim raised millions of private-sector donations for Mill Race Park, The Foundation for Youth, Our Hospice of South Central Indiana and The United Way. In 1995, Jim authored a book entitled "Leadership 101: 20 Solid Lessons in Leadership for the New Leader."
In 1959, Jim married Beverly Ann (Baker) Baker. They were happily married for 54 years and had three children, Betsy Ann, Dirk Emerson and Hugh Kendrick. They lost Hugh in a car accident in 1983. Betsy and Thomas Laskey live in Carmel, IN and have 3 children: Jack, Hannah and Peter. Dirk and Kelly (Sparenberg) Baker live in Concord, NC and have 4 children: Reid, Gib, Sydney and Annabelle. He was “Pop” to his seven grandchildren and was very special in their eyes. He always took an interest in them as unique individuals and inspired their passions. Jim also leaves behind brother Robert S. Baker (Jennie Beth) of Greenwood, sister Marilyn Baker Metcalf of Greer, SC and brother-in-law Jack (JoAnn) Baker of Columbus. He was preceded in death by in-laws Roselyn Montgomery Baker and Willard Metcalf. Jim had 10 nieces and nephews; Don (Ann) Baker and Larry (Mary) Baker; Jeff (John Pickett) Baker, Kevin(Margaret) Baker and Eric (Elizabeth) Baker; Mike (Cheryl ) Metcalf, Mark(Libby)Metcalf, Max (Cindy) Metcalf, Mindy (Mike) Cornelison and Jeanie (Maxie) Eskew.
Since his retirement in 1998, Jim enjoyed driving his truck around Columbus with his dog, tending his small orchard and delivering peaches, cherries and apples to his friends. He loved nature and the great outdoors. Even with limited mobility, he and Bev took a memorable trip to Glacier National Park in the fall of 2012. Jim was a bird carver, creating over 100 gifts for friends. He loved to read, travel (41 countries), collect stamps, restore old buildings, cut wood, fish, watch sports and wash his car. He was a man of many projects. He loved to plan surprises; probably the most notable was building a “secret” cabin in Michigan as a surprise for his family. Known as “Uncle Jim,” Jim spent hours advising and mentoring many young people. He rarely gave advice unless asked, but those around him learned a great deal just by watching how he chose to live his life.
Jim Baker will be remembered as a kind, reserved and generous man. He loved his family and had a quiet, yet strong, faith in God. Jim was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December of 2012 and faced his many medical challenges with a positive and hopeful attitude. His courage and optimism were an inspiration to many. The family wishes to thank Dr. Max Schmidt, Dr. William Schmalz, Dr. William Lustig and the caregivers at Silver Oaks Health Campus and Our Hospice of South Central Indiana in Columbus. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Jim Baker’s honor may be sent to the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School, 3960 Meadows Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46205 c/o Jim Baker Memorial Fund or to Columbus Park Foundation, P.O. Box 858, Columbus, IN 47202, c/o Jim Baker Tree Fund or to the charity of your choice.
A private family memorial service and private inurnment at Daugherty Cemetery will be conducted by close friend and minister, Dr. Joe G. Emerson. It was Jim’s every intention that his passing be a time of celebration. Fulfilling that wish, the family invites friends to attend a Celebration for the Life of Jim Baker on Friday, August 2 from 4-8 pm at the Harrison Lake Country Club, 588 S. Country Club Rd., Columbus, IN. Dr. Emerson will share his thoughts, along with John Neighbours, during the celebration.
Arrangements were entrusted to Barkes, Weaver & Glick Funeral Home.