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Richard H. Baker, Howard County social worker who spent two decades with students at Homewood Center, dies

Richard H. Baker was a roadie for the Byrds in the early 1970s.

Richard H. Baker, a Howard County social worker who was devoted to the Homewood Center in Ellicott City and its students, died of cancer Aug. 2 at Delaware Hospice in Millsboro, Delaware. The former Pikesville resident was 71.

“Baker, we always called people by their last names, came from a significant background, and when it came to working with kids, he was passionate,” said Tina A. Maddox, the principal of Homewood Center from 2006 to 2018.

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“He had a great sense of humor and was quiet, but yet very powerful,” Ms. Maddox said. “When the passion was there, you knew it. He was the guy who was going to fight for it and when it came out, you knew it,” she said.

Richard Henry Baker, son of Daniel Baker, a pharmacist, and Ethel Baker, an artist, was born in Baltimore and raised in Pikesville.

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He was a Northwestern High School graduate and a 1974 cum laude graduate of what is today Loyola University Maryland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Mr. Baker obtained his master’s degree in 1982 in clinical administration from the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore, where he was a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

While attending Maryland, he met and fell in love with Patricia Wright, who was also earning a degree in social work. They married in 1986.

“I always sat in the back row,” Ms. Baker recalled, with a laugh. “During breaks, we started talking to one another and we realized that we were believers and committed to doing what needed to be done.”

“Patty and Richard were two peas in a pod,” Ms. Maddox said. “They both started working in the city and were committed to giving, and that’s what they did.”

They began their professional careers working for what is now the Baltimore City Department of Human Services, with Mr. Baker working as a foster care specialist and a home study specialist in adoptions.

From 1986 until 1989, he was an administrator and senior clinician for the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Baltimore, a residential facility run by the Maryland Department of Health.

Mr. Baker was a clinician and case manager at the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville from 1989 to 1992, and was also in private practice specializing in adolescent and family therapy.

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During those years, he served as a clinical consultant to the Children’s Guild, a Baltimore nonprofit focused on people who have emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities and multiple disabilities.

In 1995, Mr. Baker developed and directed the REST Program — Recreation, Education and Summer Therapy — a summer school in the old Taylor Health System, which he headed for two years.

In 1998, he joined Howard County Public Schools as a social worker and then went to work at its Homewood Center.

“The center offered mental health services to students who had been exposed to some level of trauma or substance abuse,” Ms. Maddox said. “The school system, through the center, provided additional services that supported students.”

Mr. Baker “oversaw those entering or exiting our program,” Ms. Maddox explained. “We had to do things differently and we had to think of a plan and he was devoted to working with the students and their families.

“His was the first face they saw when they entered the program. Baker had to figure out strategies so they’d meet with success while working through their issues.”

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She added: “He was loved by the kids who had such a connection with him. They needed that special person and environment. He was that go-to person.”

In addition to his work at the center, Mr. Baker was a field instructor for the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

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He was also known for his staff development presentations, with names like “Discipline With Dignity,” “Behavior Management Contracting and Family Therapy” and “Burnout in Human Services.”

Mr. Baker retired in 2012 and moved to Georgetown, Delaware, in 2015.

He was a fan of 1960s and ‘70s music, especially Gram Parsons and the Byrds.

“He had been a roadie for the Byrds in 1972 and 1973,” said his son, Jesse D. Baker of Towson.

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Mr. Baker had been a Baltimore Colts fan, and was a devoted Orioles and Ravens fan.

At his request, no services will be held.

In addition to his wife, a retired social worker, and son, he is survived by a daughter, Samantha E. Baker of Georgetown, Delaware, and a grandson.


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