Stephen Macdonald Baker 1946 - 2019

You can now find details for Steve's funeral here

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Stephen McDonald Baker, ‘Stevie B’ to his friends and ‘Jamie’ if he was in danger of being told off by his mum, departed the mortal life early on the morning of Friday 11th January. He knew that some of his friends were coming to see him later that day and he may have just wanted to keep them on their toes…

He was finally back in a more natural setting after a few weeks in North Middlesex hospital – not his favourite place. Having been moved to a nursing home where the windows of his bedroom looked on to a well-tended garden with a water feature and statue of a nude woman, he must have decided that this was a good place for his last hurrah.

Steve had been diagnosed with cancer for the second time in May 2016. He’d had it before, and was now down to one kidney, but it had returned and was very advanced. There was a 16cm long tumour where his kidney had been and the cancer had spread to his bones – notably his knee. Suddenly all of the dots joined up. The back and knee pain that had been rendering him bed ridden had a clear cause.  

Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery to hold his knee together, and a lot of morphine, followed and Steve ignored the doctor’s prognosis. He celebrated his 70th birthday with a big do – complete with balding gardener made of icing sat on top of a garden themed cake. He took in more tenants, plotted and planned, wrote notes for his life story, attended a wedding as best man, drank champagne on the beach, consumed an incredible number of hobnobs, spent oodles of time with Socksie the cat, sat in his beautiful garden, and laughed with his daughter, Nancy.

In December of 2018, a year and three months after the doctors had told him that he could expect to live between three months to one year more, having proudly passed that date, Steve’s physical condition suddenly declined. Not one to ever give up, he continued to make plans to paint an elaborate mural on the back of his beloved shed. Death was something that happened to other people.

The day before he drifted off I was on the phone to Nancy. We agreed that Steve would never give up but that we could imagine him dreaming his way out of here. The next morning, I think that is exactly what he did.

Steve got involved with Greenpeace sometime in the 80s and was integral to its workings for decades to come. Not just through actions, trainings, and national skillshares, but because he was caring and nurturing – and inspiring. Steve was relied on again and again. Risks did not bother him but he empathised with other people and helped them conquer their fears. He boarded rigs, shut down power stations. His brother-in-law told me about sitting down to watch the news only to see Steve wander across the screen, nonchalant as you like. And Steve took people in. The number of people who had lived or stayed in his house, ‘the Greenpeace house’ – the infamous ‘Coral Villas’ or ‘number 66’, was significant. Activists, staff members, aspiring staff members. And people who had nothing to do with Greenpeace. All were welcome.

One day, frustrated with another stay in hospital and keen to take his mind off it, we attempted to note down all of the actions he had taken part in. When we finally ran out of ideas the sun had set and I had a page full of scribbles – of code names, the beginnings of stories, big moments, or brief recollections. It was over a hundred.

I cannot start to write about the impact Steve had. His stories are too many, his interactions too great, his life too vast. When I ask myself what the purpose is of this note I am writing all I can think is that I need to write something. To say something, especially for his friends who might want to know a little more about the end of his life. But I know I cannot do Steve justice and I cannot tell all of his stories. I met Steve less than a decade ago. Those stories do not belong to me. But many of you will have stories and I hope you will help tell them so that together we can celebrate the life of an incredibly wonderful, generous and happy, world changing, Steve.

Stephen Macdonald Baker 30 November 1946  - 11 January 2019.

 

You can find details on Steve's funeral here