Special series featuring the notable current and former Lima residents memorialized on the mural in downtown Lima
Dr. James Baker
the419 sat down with Dr. Baker’s daughter Betsi Burden to learn about the man loved by so many. Photos and descriptions courtesy Betsi Burden.
Story by Janet Ferguson
“My sweet daddy loved Lima,” said his daughter Betsi Burden. She and her family nominated him to be in the new Mural depicting those that had an impact on the city and the people in it.
“He loved Lima. He said that when he came over to Ohio Northern he and some friends would hitchhike over from Ada and they would eat at Kewpee. He said once he ate at Kewpee, he knew he had to live in Lima so he could have it all the time,” she laughed.
Going to Kewpee continued to be a family tradition. On special occasions, they would go to the downtown location with the turntable.
“He would get my brothers and I all excited and say, ‘get ready, she’s going to push the button!'”
Dr. Baker was born on the other side of Ohio as an only child with a father who was a Pharmacist, which led Dr. Baker to study at Ohio Northern and become a Pharmacist himself.
“After serving in the Air Force, he went back home to his hometown of Urichsville, Ohio and met my mom, Anne Biddle. Six months later, they were married,” Burden said.
After the war, he worked as a pharmacist and began his family with Anne.
Photos of Dr. James Burden. Click to view gallery. Story continues below.
Betsi and her brother were born right before her dad decided to go back to medical school.
“Ohio State turned him down twice, but he persevered and was eventually accepted. We moved to Columbus, and they had two more boys while he was in school. Dad went to medical school during the day and worked at Nicklaus Pharmacy and the Ohio State penitentiary on nights and weekends. My mom was able to stay home with the kids.”
Burden is still in awe of her dads ability to juggle school work and 2 a.m. baby feedings.
“My mom told us he didn’t complain, he just did it.”
As the kids grew, so did their adoration for their dad.
“We wanted do whatever he did. All he had to say was ‘this is fun, let’s try this’ and we would follow suit.”
Dr. Baker also had a love for animals. Throughout her childhood, Burden says they had a capuchin monkey, a baby raccoon, a pet kingsnake and crows.
“Cricket was the monkey and he would go to the sugar container and just throw handfuls of sugar up in the air or would run through the house pulling toilet paper behind him,” she laughed.
Eventually Cricket ended up in Fort Wayne at a petting zoo where he was very happy. She also noted that her dad had a simple solution for remembering the dog’s name “Each dog was named Kurt, so as one would pass and we would get another one he wouldn’t have to remember a new name, it was always Kurt.”
During her summers, Burden worked in the office with her dad from time to time.
“Something that people may not know is that in between patients, he would play the piano,” she said.
The piano is something Dr. Baker learned at just three years old.
“He was very musically inclined and could pick up any instrument and learn it quickly. My mom bought him the piano for the office because she knew it relaxed him if he was having a stressful day.”
He was also passionate about sports – specifically, Shawnee sports. While Burden and her siblings attended Shawnee High School, Dr. Baker became the schools sports physician – a position he held for 40 years.
When you ask his former patients what they remember most about him, they all have a similar response: he was an excellent listener.
“He always said medicine is 80% listening and 20% medicine.”
Since Dr. Baker’s passing in 2011, Burden says her family continues to be amazed at all the lives he touched. “People will stop my mom in the store and tell her what an impact he had on their life. It brings her a lot of joy because they really were a team. Everywhere they went, she was right there with him.”
Dr. and Anne Baker were fearless in traveling with the children and grandchildren. “My mother made sure that we always took a trip during the summer. We had a station wagon and camped because it was the cheapest way to travel with 5 kids. We went up into New England, especially Old Orchard Beach in Maine where a buddy he knew from the service lived. Finally when we were older she rented a motorhome. We went to almost every state.”
Burden recalled a trip that her parents took with two of her teenage daughters to Europe.
“My parents always wanted to share experiences with their family. They would always say ‘let’s just and go try it,'” she laughed.
In addition to traveling, Dr. Baker collected arrowheads.
“He started his collection at a young age and by the time he passed he had thousands of artifacts. Every time it rained, my parents would hop in the car, my mom with a book in hand to keep her entertained while my dad searched for arrowheads in the field. They were always together,” Burden explained.
The family says while he would be honored to be recognized on the downtown mural, he was extremely humble.
“Our family did this for his 14 grandkids. We wanted them to have a permanent place to go and visit their ‘Poppa Doc’.”