LOXLEY, Alabama — During this time when residents have been asked to stay at home and practice social distancing it has become impossible to properly honor those who have passed on.
But on Thursday, April 9, residents along the Alabama 59 corridor between Foley and Loxley were asked to give a hero’s sendoff to a local resident who served his country well beyond his days in the military.
Ernest Harold “Ernie” Baker, died Monday, April 6 at his home in Silverhill after a battling cancer.
Born July 20, 1937 in Brewton, Baker considered Loxley his home.
“He meant so much to this community and it means so much to us to be able to honor him,” said Loxley Town Council Member Katherine Breeden, who organized the town’s annual Veterans Day celebration.
A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, serving from 1955 to 1975, retiring with the rank of master sergeant, Baker proudly carried the flag of his branch of service at Loxley's annual Veterans Day event held every November.
But he was unable to perform that task in recent years, Breeden said.
“We couldn’t keep him away though and he came and stayed as long as he could,” she said.
On Thursday, in lieu of being able to have a funeral service, Baker was escorted to his final resting place at the Baldwin County Veterans Memorial Cemetery on Alabama 225 in Spanish Fort, let by local police departments and the Alabama Patriot Guard motorcycle group.
Loxley Police Officers picked up the escort at Central Baldwin Middle School, taking him through the town and residents were encouraged to line the streets while keeping a safe distance in their cars to honor him.
The Loxley Volunteer Fire Department also used a ladder truck to display the U.S. Flag over the highway in Loxley.
For his service to his country, Baker was awarded The Bronze Star for his courageous actions above and beyond during his multiple tours of duty in Vietnam. He was a crew chief on F-104s and F-105s fighter aircrafts.
Baker was an active member of both the Arnold Bower Chapter 45 of the Disable American Veterans (DAV) and The Alabama Patriot Guard. He was also a member of the Chapter 864 Vietnam Veterans Association in Silverhill and was awarded Alabama State Council Veteran of The Year in 2014 (Chapter 864). He was also awarded Veteran of the Year by the Fourth District of Alabama in 2015.
He was the designer and the driving force in establishing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War I Memorial and The Korean War Memorial that stands at Baldwin County Bicentennial Park in Stockton. He aided in the design of the Veterans Memorial that currently stands at the Municipal Park in Loxley, as well as being a contributor to the Veterans Memorial Park in Silverhill.
Baker and his wife Mary frequently cooked breakfast for the seniors at the Loxley Civic Center. He also enjoyed riding motorcycles on long trips with his brothers, son, nephews and many friends. He also enjoyed fishing, hunting and gardening.
He was preceded in death by Mary, his wife of 61years, his parents James Edward Baker and Pearl Franklin Baker, and brother, Kenneth Edward Baker.
Survivors include two children, Kathryn Baker Kinsey of Silverhill; and Randall K. (Peggy) Baker of Panama City, Florida; three brothers, Dale Baker of Loxley, Nolan (Beth) Baker of Athens, Alabama, and Gary Baker of Spanish Fort; and sister, Joyce (Lavon) Tuberville (Lavon) of Silverhill.
Due to COVID-19 no public services can be planned at this time, however, as soon as possible, Baker will receive a military service with full honors.
Arrangements were by Cason Funeral Service of Foley. Private burial was held at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Stockton.
Online condolences can be shared at casonfuneralservices.com.