James Albert Baker
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James Albert Baker, age 83, of rural Viola, WI, passed away peacefully in the care of his family. Jim was born at St Ann's Hospital in La Crosse, WI on September 16, 1938, to William Ellsworth and Opal Marie (Grim) Baker. Jim attended elementary school at the Elk Creek School and graduated from Viola High School in 1956. Jim was athletic and earned his Varsity letter. He was known for his excellent baseball pitching. He developed his pitching skills throwing the ball against the barn door between changing the milking machinery on the family farm.
Following his high school graduation, Jim went to Janesville to work at Fisher Body, which later became General Motors. Jim completed vocational training courses as a machinist and welding. Trips home to Viola on weekends included stops in Madison to pick up a Viola girl he was dating, June Parker. Jim and June were married on September 5, 1959, in the Evangelical United Brethren Church of Viola.
In 1960, Jim and June welcomed their first child, Susan. Their family grew to include Sharon and James Jr.
Jim enjoyed playing fastpitch softball in his early years in Janesville. He played several nights a week for various teams. In addition to playing in the Janesville City league, and the UAW league he played for the Edgerton 7UP Rockets traveling league around south-central Wisconsin. Jim and some of his GM co-workers took up bowling after getting off work late at night. In 1969 Jim's bowling team competed in the American Bowling Congress Championship in Madison. A later hobby was shooting archery with the Janesville Bowman. Jim earned several trophies and medals and decided it was a better hobby than bowling when he shot a buck during bow season. Jim and June made many friends in Janesville through the Janesville Moose Club, The Forresters, and the UAW.
For years Jim and June packed up their family on weekends and spent time with their extended families in Viola. Their dream was to retire back to the Viola, WI area. In 1995, their daughter Susan passed away and Jim and June were back to raising children when their grandchildren, Eric and Lisa Anderson came to live with them. In 1998, Jim retired from General Motors after 42 years and he, June, Eric and Lisa retired to the hobby farm on Elk Creek, across the road from the farm where Jim grew up with his parents and siblings. Jim's retirement was spent close to the many family members he loved, fishing, hunting, and managing his land. Jim became interested in tree farming and was a member of the Walnut Council and Wisconsin Woodmen. He planted over 150,000 black walnut and other trees on his farms on Elk Creek and Tar Hollow. It gave Jim great pleasure to invest in the future of the land he had his roots on. When not working his forests, he was outside feeding the birds, tinkering in the garage, always with a kitty following him. Jim could be found each morning playing cards, drinking coffee, and conversing with the retired men in Viola. When Covid-19 cut out the card-playing, Jim enjoyed working on Cryptograms, which helped him be the best Wheel of Fortune living room player! Jim loved a good auction and always had a story about his latest "find". Jim and June enjoyed annual fall trips to their timeshare in Branson, MO for over 30 years and often asked family and friends to travel along. Despite his attachment to rural living, Jim enjoyed trips to New Zealand and several European countries, and the Caribbean. Jim was a trustee and active member of the Viola United Methodist Church.
Jim is survived by his wife of 62 years, June; his children, Sharon (Steven) Willeford, and their children: Susanna, Laine, Katherine, Evan Bucklin, and Gracie Willeford; James Jr. (Patti) Baker, and their children: James McCullick, Cody Dvorak, Tanya Dvorak, and Josephine Baker; Susan's children, Eric Anderson, Lisa (C.J.) Peterson; Great-Grandchildren, Alexander, and Angelica Peterson; Jim's siblings: Alice (LaVern) Phillips, Mauretta Sanford, William (Julienne) Baker, Carol (Steve) Dortman, and Alberta (John) Baker; his in-laws: Lois Barber, Dale (Lola) Parker, Alice Parker and Sara Jane Parker, Bruce Mullendore.
Jim was preceded by his daughter, Susan (Baker) Anderson; his grandson, Jack Bucklin; his siblings, Virginia (Baker) Mullendore, Floyd Baker, and infant brother, Larry Baker; and his in-laws, James Sanford, Murl Parker, and Evan Parker.
Jim will be remembered for his love of family and love of the land of the Kickapoo Valley. He was quick with a joke or to lend a helping hand.
Special thanks to Pastor Lorri McGranahan (Viola United Methodist Church) and the wonderful caregivers of St. Croix Hospice for the support and peace they brought to Jim and his family.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in Jim's name can be made to the Viola Rescue Squad, the Viola Cemetery, or the charity of your choice.
A Memorial Service will be held at noon on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at the Viola United Methodist Church. Pastor Lori McGranahan will officiate. Visitation will be held from 10:00 a.m. until the time of service. Jim will be laid to rest at the Viola Cemetery. Online Condolences may be expressed at www.vossfh.com.