Barbara Curtis Baker ’61

A Celebration of Life will be held on Monday, November 20, 2023, at 1:00 p.m. at Dennis Union Church, 713 Main Street, Dennis, Massachusetts. Reception to follow.

Barbara Curtis Baker died peacefully on June 12, 2023, surrounded by her family.

Daughter of Orman and Marylouise Curtis, Barbara was born on May 27, 1943, in Northampton, Massachusetts. She grew up with brothers Richard and Jeffrey in Easthampton, next to the Williston Northampton School, a proximity that would lead to a life-long relationship with the school. She attended the Northampton School for Girls, then went on to receive degrees in early childhood education from Wheelock College (BA) and Smith College (MA). During her first stint teaching in Washington, DC, she met Ellis Baker, her husband of 56 years, who was a career educator at the Williston Northampton School. After their first meeting, Ellis claims he said to a colleague, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry” — and marry her he did on August 5, 1967, in the Williston Chapel. They raised their four children, Lisa, Carrie, Ben and Adam, committing their lives to their family and the surrounding community, finding joy in supporting their children’s endeavors. Her lifelong passion educating young people, Barbara taught at Smith College’s Center for Early Childhood Education at Fort Hill for decades, shaping classroom learning experiences for three and four year olds, while mentoring student teachers. Barbara served on the Williston Northampton School’s Alumni Council and Board of Trustees before retiring to Cape Cod in Brewster, Massachusetts, where she and Ellis walked the Brewster flats, became members of the Dennis Union Church, volunteered their time at Eventide Arts, enjoyed family reunions, and traveled to care for their grandchildren. Barbara loved grandparenting as much as she loved teaching, her belief in the critical importance of an excellent early education manifested intimately. To the end of her life, Barbara shared her smile and warmth with all around her, including her caregivers, a legacy of love that lives on in her children and grandchildren.

Barbara leaves behind her husband Ellis Baker ’51 and her children, their spouses, and nine grandchildren: Lisa Baker ’89 and Tarim Chung, Malia, Thea, and Siri; Carrie Baker ’92 and Dragoş Vas, Călin and Ana; Ben and Robin Baker, Rachel (and husband Richard) and Jane; and Adam Baker and Chris Chandler, Levi and Oliver. She also leaves behind her brothers Richard ’63 and Jeffrey Curtis, and Richard’s wife Donna Curtis.

6 thoughts on “Barbara Curtis Baker ’61”

  1. My condolences and heart to the Baker/Curtis Family, especially to Ellis (or as we could only call him, Mr. Baker). They were two peas in a pod. Truly one of the most loving and giving couples at Williston in my day. Mrs. Baker was not only a mom and grandmother to her children but also to so many of us at Williston. The last time I saw her and Mr. Baker in person was out on the Cape in 2018. Both just as welcoming with open arms as if 20 years had not gone by. Mrs. Baker, thank you for all your sincere kindness, it made a difference in our lives!

  2. Oh my! Barbara Curtis Baker will be remembered as the consummate boarding school spouse, teacher, mentor, nurturer, humorist, leader, seer, perseverance embodiment, talent, confluence of all that is good and wholesome, family-centered and faithful…among other wonderful traits.

    For a time, I served with her on the Alumni Council, the Board of Trustees (Alumni Representative) and as a colleague on the staff of the School. My own personal/family challenges aside, Barbara ably assessed people in stress and in need of a guiding hand. She had the capacity and heart to take on more than she needed to and quietly became a net for many to fall into when weakened by stress and challenge. My own family benefitted from her huge amount of courage, wisdom and love while raising/melding her own family. I/we have never forgotten.

    RIP. You have been one of the finest individuals to provide a steady hand and hope.

  3. Barbara, a member of the Easthampton carpool group (!), was such an asset to NSFG, active in numerous extra-curricular activities as well as sports. I seem to remember she was on the soccer team. She was a bright and friendly addition to campus life. And I know she and her faithful spouse, Ellis Baker, contributed their all for the betterment of Williston Northampton.. She will be sorely missed.

  4. This woman was so supportive and I cared for her very much. I treasured my last dance with her. Love for her and Ellis.

  5. Barbara and I were not close until our schools merged in 1971. From then on, we worked to merge the ‘61 gals and guys into a single WNS61 class. We helped plan the 25th and 50th reunions. We celebrated Lisa and Carrie’s successes at WNS and Middlebury and were at their weddings at Groton and on the Cape. The very successful Eventide Arts Theater was her and Ellis’ retirement “project” for many years on the Cape. Janet and I visited them on the Cape and I and my bridge partners stayed with them for the annual Regional ACBL bridge tournament in Falmouth.
    Barbara was a strong leader in all aspects of her life; family, Church, Smith College, WNS, Class of ‘61 and more. She lived a full life for 80 years and will be missed. My heart goes out to Ellis and their children and grandchildren.

  6. Ms. Baker was my first-grade teacher at Smith College Day School in 1967. She left enough of a mark on me then that I was thrilled to find her at Williston when I entered the Middle School there in the fall of 1972. Both she and Ellis would continue to influence my developmental years in the Pioneer Valley through my graduation in 1978. I know she touched many other young students as well. May she rest in eternal peace.

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