R.I.P., Manuel Baker.


I didn’t know Manuel Baker for very long, nor saw him all that often, but there’s something about him that always will stick with me.

Around the time the Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society (FOSSILS) got started in 1990, some of us regularly attended meetings of the LAGERS club. The acronym stands for Louisville Area Grain and Extract Research Society, and it predates FOSSILS by a year or so.

Manuel was a LAGERS stalwart before moving to Florida in the early 1990s. Being retired, he always had time to work the LAGERS booth at the Kentucky State Fair. He was genial and fond of telling wonderful stories, like the time he explained one of his experiences during World War II.

Seems that the American forces had begun the push onto German soil, and had paused on the outskirts of a town. Manuel’s unit had been specifically warned that a nearby brewery was off-limits for fear of remaining snipers — and having learned for the first time that a brewery was nearby, Manuel and several others decided to reconnoiter.

Access to the brewery was gained without incident, and stores of beer were located. There ensued a rest period, during which these remaining stocks were substantially reduced. Having conducted sufficient intelligence gathering, the soldiers emerged to make their way back — and immediately came under fire. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but there was a stiff fight, and after returning to camp, there was “Hell to pay,” as Manuel described it.

Obviously, the incident took place after the Battle of the Bulge. I don’t recall Manuel ever alluding to the battle, or to his Bronze Star earned there. The obituary is the first I’ve heard of it.

Manuel was a fine fellow, and deserving of a pint consumed in his honor. I encourage readers to do this. When it comes to his generation, the ranks are thinning … as eventually they will in our own. Cheers to Manuel … and thanks for a story I’ll never forget.

BAKER, MANUEL A., died September 14, 2013 in Oviedo, FL.

He was born June 10, 1919 in Muskegon, MI, he served in the 3rd Armored Division of the U.S. First Army during World War II in Germany where he earned a bronze star at the Battle of the Bulge. He was active in the 3rd Armored Division Association, eventually becoming Vice-President for the Southern Region. He ended his business career as General Manager of Fontaine Truck Equipment in Louisville, KY. Retirement allowed him time to further his wood working skills and take up genealogy, where he discovered his ancestors first came to North America in 1725, and his wife’s ancestors in 1625.

To a friend’s description of him as “a true gentleman, a good friend and a great man” can be added a loving husband and father.

He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Juanita Kelsey Baker; brother, Clarence; son, Gregg; and granddaughter, Kathryn.

He requested no memorial service, and that donations be made to the Wounded Warrior Project: www.woundedwarriorproject.org in lieu of flowers.