On April 20, 2021, Gary J. Baker, passed away at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria after a brief illness at 64 years of age. He was born on March 4, 1957 in Peoria to Joyce Barnwell. He married Patricia L. Baker on November 5, 1994 at Arcadia Avenue Presbyterian Church in Peoria. She survives. Also surviving are his sister, Cheryl (Walt) Emmer of Wyoming, IL and Deana Barnes of Creve Coeur; his brother, Bradley “Brad” Barnwell of East Peoria, IL; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his mother in 2009; and his brother, Deana’s twin, David, in 1997.
Gary was raised in the south side of Peoria in the 1960’s when it was a volatile time in the streets of Peoria. His mother raised him and his siblings. Gary didn’t know his father but his best friend, Doug’s father became a father figure to Gary and he cherished this man his entire life. His mother was a single mom working and going to school to be a surgical technician. His mother instilled in him hard work and discipline in order to improve his living conditions. Gary’s ethical moral code and purpose in life was simple, honor God, treat others how you would want to be treated, work hard, and laugh whenever you can. His eyes sparkled everyday no matter how tired he was and he had a contagious, jovial laugh.
Gary attended Richwoods High School before joining the Navy Corps. Upon returning home from the Navy, he worked for Butternut Bakery. Gary was innovative and inquisitive by nature. As a youngster, he learned how to upholster furniture. He loved the challenge and the thinking process in figuring out how parts of machinery work independently and collectively. He attended an apprenticeship program through Bradley University and learned the HVAC system. He worked for BroMenn Hospital in Normal for several years as well as establishing his own business, Baker Heating and Cooling. Upon returning to Peoria, he worked in HVAC for Methodist Medical Center until 1999 and then for OSF St. Francis Medical Center for 22 years. After several years in the hospital, Gary transferred to the outpatient buildings, first working in the field and then monitoring the Automation Systems as well as continual new construction for over 80 outpatient buildings.
Gary was an animal lover from a young age. He couldn’t wait to come home to his dogs Max and Sunnie. Max was his favorite. Sunnie was always by his side and he enjoyed throwing a ball around in the backyard to them. Every Spring, he couldn’t wait to get his tractor out and tend to the yard. In his younger years, he was depended upon to play Santa Clause for the children at his mother’s house every year for Christmas. Gary was a kind, humble soul and always willing to help others. He was always fixing furnaces and A/C units for family and friends. He was a spiritual man, wholly embracing the precious togetherness of family time and the day to day routine. He was a humble, quiet man who didn’t require a lot of accolades. He loved his family, his country and was a proud member of the NRA.
Gary will be painfully missed, especially at Christmas time and his big-hearted jovial laugh will never be forgotten.
“Once there was a little girl. Once there was little boy. They lived far apart but they shared the same stars. In time, they grew and they shared the same dream. When I found you my heart was home. You were my sunshine, my dearest Viking warrior and now you are in the arms of Jesus and the Angels. Someday we will be home together sharing the same sunshine again. 26 years together wasn’t long enough. You were a miracle in my life” – Your loving wife, Mrs. B.
Services for Gary will be held on Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 4pm at Weber-Hurd Funeral Home in Chillicothe. Visitation will also be held on Saturday from 2pm to 4pm at the funeral home. Gary’s nephew, Rob Hake, will be officiating. Cremation rites will be accorded following the services. Memorials may be made to any animal shelter, SouthSide Mission, St. Jude Children's Hospital or to the charity of the donor’s choice.