LAKE PLACID — Howard S. “Bunky” Baker, 85, died Sunday, March 13, 2011 at AMC-Uihlein in Lake Placid.
He was born in Syracuse, son of John Chester Baker and Katherine (Conde) Baker, and grandson of Swits Churchill Conde, businessman and philanthropist of Oswego. He attended Taft Preparatory School and Wesleyan University in Connecticut — with a year of stateside World War II service in the Army in between — followed by honorable discharge and a year at Syracuse University Law School, for which Bunky liked to call himself a “one-quarter lawyer.”
Bunky’s career in Lake Placid began just prior to law school with his first of two employment periods with the Lake Placid Club. From mid-1948 to late 1950, he served as the Club’s sports director, convention manager and assistant club secretary. Following law school, he served with the U.S. Department of State’s Mutual Security Agency in Paris, France, which whetted his appetite for world travel and served as the springboard for nearly 15 years of employment with Thomas Cook & Son of London, England, the world’s largest travel organization at the time. Bunky’s best times with Cook he enjoyed recounting through vivid, well-told stories about experiences he had assisting with or directing cruises to more than 70 countries.
Bunky returned to Lake Placid in 1968 to become director of development for the Lake Placid Club, a position he held until 1974. Starting in the mid-1970s, his professional activities and community service grew to include area real estate development and sales, advertising and public relations, Kiwanis International (he helped found the Lake Placid chapter and became President), membership on the board of the Lake Placid Chamber of Commerce and — most significantly for our region — membership on the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee. In this effort Bunky accepted the unenviable responsibilities of chairman of both the Housing and Food Services committees. The ensuing tasks — especially the unpopular, legislatively authorized takeover of all public accommodations in the Tri-Lakes area — required a formidable set of public relations, business and logistical skills put to unrelenting use over a number of years in preparation for the 1980 Olympics. In this and all else, however, Bunky was a principled man who, while demanding of others, was always just as demanding of himself.
Farewell to Bunky is not said well without full appreciation for his softer qualities, however. Even when thorny business lay directly before him, he was quick with a wink or a smile, a joke or a song, a thank you or a poem, a sympathetic ear or warm words of encouragement; the whole of his education he put to full, enjoyable use on a daily basis to the very last. Among Bunky’s own best memories of life in Lake Placid were not only those of well-heeled social occasions with his good friends and acquaintances, but also of simply puttering north up the lake when he was younger — alone in his small motorboat with his dog and a little food — and sleeping out somewhere along the shore.
While Bunky experienced times of sadness, he held no great regrets. “Life doesn’t owe me anything,” he was fond of saying emphatically in his last years as he looked back. He leaves no immediate family.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 19 at the St. Eustace Episcopal Church in Lake Placid. Burial will occur at the Baker family plot in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse. Funeral arrangements are in care of the Fortune-Keough Funeral Home in Saranac Lake.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Tri-Lakes Humane Society.