In Memoriam: Ruben Baker Jr.


Published in the Cape Cod Times on 7/20/2008

WELLFLEET — Captain Reuben Rich Baker Jr. died peacefully on Sunday, July 13, 2008, at Belvernon, his Wellfleet home, after a short illness. He was 81 and passed at his usual bedtime, surrounded by family.

Captain Baker was born in Milton on March 2, 1927, to Reuben R. Baker Sr. and his wife, the former Irene Wallen. Grandson of Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, he spent the first 15 years of his life at Belvedere, the family plantation near Morant Bay on the island of Jamaica. In the middle of World War II, his family made its way from Jamaica back to the United States in a British-escorted convoy of fruit ships that originated in South America and landed in St. Petersburg, Fla.

At 17, he began attending the Maritime Institute in Baltimore, Md., and joined the Merchant Marines. He worked and studied his way from mess boy to captain. He served on supply ships during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. He worked in every ocean and sea in the world, including carrying sugar around the Pacific rim, moving container ships around the Atlantic, laying cable off the coast of Mexico, and tending oil rigs off Alaska and in the North Sea. One highlight of his career was his work around the world on the Lulu, Knorr and Atlantis II research vessels for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution from 1972 to 1989. He was Master of Atlantis II, the support vessel for worldwide deep-sea explorations using the submersible, Alvin, during Bob Ballard's discovery and first explorations of the Titanic in 1986.

Throughout his life, Captain Baker was an avid model-railroad builder. He was an active member of several model railroad associations, including the Nauset, Cape Cod and San Diego clubs. He was a popular speaker at schools, libraries, historical and nautical organizations, and, of course, dinner parties.

Captain Baker is survived by his sons, Reuben L. R. Baker and Sean D. Baker; six grandchildren, Caitlyn, Benjamin, Zachary, Jeremiah, Alyssa and Joseph; a sister, Irene Helmes; and four nieces and five nephews. He was predeceased by his two brothers, Thomas H. Baker Sr. and Fredrick H. Baker Sr.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on July 27, 2008, at the United Methodist Church in Wellfleet. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made directly to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Taylor's Point, 101 Academy Drive, Buzzards Bay, MA 02635-3400, in memory of Captain Reuben R. Baker Jr. A private burial will be held at a later date.

Nickerson Funeral Home


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