By Dominik Lobkowicz
Bob and Margaret Baker at Dodge Point in Newcastle, a now-public land they helped preserve through their efforts and significant monetary donations. (Photo courtesy Damariscotta River Association)
Robert and Margaret Baker, a Newcastle couple who passed away just days apart in late November, were people who gave both of themselves and their wallets to benefit Lincoln County towns in a number of ways.
The Bakers married in 1947, moved to Damariscotta soon thereafter, and eventually settled in Newcastle in 1962.
The couple’s efforts in the community included serving as founding members of and significant donors to the Damariscotta River Association, donors of the lead gift to kick off the Cable-Burns Applied Technology and Engineering Center project at Lincoln Academy, and many others.
Bob also served as a founding member of the Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service.
“They were people with a lot of projects going, going forward, and most of them really did revolve around our community life in Maine,” said Catharine Baker, one of the Bakers’ daughters.
Steve Hufnagel, executive director of the Damariscotta River Association, described the Bakers as “heroes.”
“They were founders, they were part of DRA from the very start,” Hufnagel said. “When I look back at all the old newsletters, these two together helped not just launch the DRA, but helped it develop through the years, helped to give it strength, both through the investment of their time and their skill, but also through their generous philanthropy.”
Margaret served as a vice president for a time and as secretary for a number of years; Bob served on the stewardship and investment committees, according to Hufnagel.
The Bakers made a “pivotal gift” for the acquisition of Dodge Point Public Reserved Land in Newcastle, Hufnagel said. The Bakers pledged a $75,000 challenge grant as part of the DRA’s $250,000 fundraising effort to secure the land in the late 1980s, according to a 2013 press release from the DRA.Bob was selected to serve as the lead volunteer steward for Dodge Point, a position he held until at least 2013, according to the release.
The Bakers’ involvement with Dodge Point was just the beginning of their conservation work, which spanned from “Washington County down to York and Kittery,” according to Catharine Baker.
As one example, Bob played “a major role” in securing 4,500 acres adjacent to Alamoosook Lake in Orland, now called the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands, according to his obituary.
“[Bob’s] insistence was the Baker name would not be attached to any of it, so most people have no idea,” Catharine said of the conservation work. “It was important to Dad that it not be a matter of personalities.”
The Baker name did get attached to their 2003 donation of 165 acres on River Road in Newcastle to the DRA, now called the Baker Forest.
Bob acquired the land for the Baker Forest over several decades, Hufnagel said. “Bob really could point out every major tree. He knew the land inside and out, showed me where the old cattle pound was,” he said.
“It’s clear that the DRA would not be the organization it is today without the involvement of the Bakers from the very start and throughout,” Hufnagel said.
An early board of directors for Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service included (from left) President Samuel Roberts, of Damariscotta, Charles Cotton, of Bremen, Doug Baldwin, of Bristol, Bob Baker, of Newcastle and Ray Stevens, of Nobleboro. Roberts, Cotton, Baldwin and Baker were on the original founding board, along with James Hall, of Nobleboro, and Howard Plummer, of South Bristol. This picture, taken on April 26, 1973, hangs at the Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service building.
In addition to his role as a founder of the DRA, Bob Baker was also one of the founding board members for the Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service.
John Gallagher, an advanced EMT who has worked with the service since 1972, said Bob was instrumental in forming the service, and served as treasurer until the 2000s.
“He literally kept that place running, as far as financially keeping all the bills paid and looking forward to providing funds for purchasing new ambulances and ways to raise funds,” as well as driving the ambulance and assisting physically in the early years, Gallagher said.
“Bob was a tremendous, tremendous help to the ambulance service,” Gallagher said. “He’s going to be missed, because he still used to drop in once in a while, when he was able to, just to see how things were going.”
“[Bob] had such respect for his fellow board members, the volunteers, and eventually the paid staff they were able to keep on,” Catharine Baker said.
Catharine recalled whenever she tried to call an ambulance for one of Bob’s medical emergencies – he and Margaret lived at their River Road home until their deaths – “He would insist they had more important things to do – real emergencies.”
“He wouldn’t have done that for my mother, but for himself, he would resist,” she said.
Gallagher described Bob Baker as very conscientious and very dedicated to anything he started.
“He wouldn’t touch anything he couldn’t finish and do a first class job on,” Gallagher said.
“He had a quiet graciousness,” said Hufnagel. “Always a can-do sense, and with the tools and knowledge to make it happen. Not showy, just right there, just right there.”
As a Boy Scout troop leader, Bob Baker “made men out of boys,” Gallagher said. “He was a real mentor to a lot of people, whether it was scouts or the ambulance service.”
Bob was a mentor in his role as a Newcastle selectman, too, Catharine said, encouraging younger people and people who grew up in the area to take on the role.
Margaret, as soon as she had time that wasn’t completely taken up by her four children, volunteered for the Miles Memorial Hospital League and blood drives, Catharine said. Later she would become more involved with her church, the local food pantry, community suppers, and so on.
“Her interests always involved helping people, and she would get involved wherever needed,” Catharine said.
When part of the Dodge Point reserve was renamed Baker Landing in honor of Bob and Margaret in 2013, Hufnagel said. “. the DRA cannot adequately express the warmth, humor, energy, skill, and humility with which [the Bakers] approach their generous service to the community.”
Those five words really captured the Bakers, Hufnagel said.
“We’re really sad to lose them both,” he said. “We’ll miss them.”