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Published: Sunday, 1/14/2001

Executive in family companies enjoyed golf

Gerald Van Cleve Baker, a member of an early Toledo family and an executive with two family-owned businesses, died Jan. 4 in his Delray Beach, Fla., winter home. He was 96.

The cause of death was not known, his son, Dr. Laurance Nilsen said. Mr. Baker, of Perrysburg Township, was not known to have any serious ailments.

Mr. Baker was secretary-treasurer of the former Baker Bros., Inc., machine tool makers. When the family bought the automotive equipment line of a Connecticut firm, Mr. Baker became vice president in charge of the new business, Hall-Toledo.

“He was modest and was responsible and a good guy,” said Sam Carson, who is married to Mr. Baker's niece, Alice.

Niece Lucy Baker Shutt said: “He always enjoyed working with the family.”

Baker Bros. sold Hall-Toledo to a group of investors in 1965.

Born in Toledo, Mr. Baker grew up at 1807 Madison Ave. His grandfather, William Baker, a Norwalk native, moved to Toledo in 1844 and became a prominent lawyer. His father, Arthur Earnest Baker, and uncle Herbert Baker formed Baker Bros. in 1881.

“He was very proud to be a member of a family like that, but he didn't make any big fuss about it,” Mrs. Shutt said. “He was a friend of all the first families” of Toledo.

Gerald Baker was a graduate of the Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Conn. He studied engineering at Yale University and was a 1928 graduate.

He returned to Toledo and worked at the Collin, Norton, & Co. brokerage firm. He began as a “board boy,” writing stock market activities on a blackboard, and charted the stock market crash of October, 1929, he later told family members, Mrs. Shutt recalled.

Mr. Baker began work with Baker Bros. in 1939. He was in the Navy from 1942 to 1946 and was a lieutenant commander aboard the USS West Point, a troop carrier.

Golf was a favorite pastime until about three years ago, his son said.

He was a member of the Belmont Country Club and the Little Club, Gulfstream, Fla.

His marriage to Elizabeth Beckwith ended in divorce. He married Elizabeth Ward Rauch in 1949. She died in February, 1970.

Surviving are his son, Dr. Laurance Nilsen; four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. A memorial service will be scheduled in May at First Congregational Church, Toledo, where he was a lifelong member. Arrangements are by the Bennett-Emmert-Szakovits Mortuary.

The family requests tributes to the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn.; Yale University; the church, or the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.

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