VIRGINIA S. Baker, who died at age 76 this week, was a Baltimore original, a City Hall official whose specific job it was to coordinate fun and games.
She had attorneys and judges participating in hog-calling contests, people of all ages bringing in frogs to see whose would jump the farthest and kids competing in twirling hula-hoops.
She organized outdoor performances of Shakespeare. She even had a sword thrust into her neck, or so it seemed, during a performance on City Hall plaza by a now-forgotten magician.
Ms. Baker started as a volunteer when she was 10 and then worked for the city recreation and parks department for 55 years. She served under nine mayors -- from Howard W. Jackson to Kurt L. Schmoke.
Ms. Baker's glory years were during William Donald Schaefer's long tenure at City Hall. She was reputed to have been the only municipal official in the United States whose mission was to invent more fun and games. She did it all with gusto.
"I've made a lot of kids happy," she once explained. "That's what I get paid for."
Because of Ms. Baker's extraordinary dedication, hundreds of people volunteered to work with her in city recreation and parks activities.
Virginia Baker had a rare gift. She could take people with seemingly little to offer and turn them into civic assets. She made people feel good about themselves, about others and about Baltimore. She will be missed.
Pub Date: 8/1/98