A dear friend of mine passed away last week. Walt Baker was a big man with a bellowing voice. The first time we met, was when he interviewed me for the position of his assistant in a fledgling television company that he was managing. He terrified me. He was loud, opinionated and seemed hot tempered, but media jobs in Ireland in the early 90’s were terribly scarce, so when offered, I rather reluctantly took the job.
Walt was a right wing, gun carrying, stubborn republican. I was a young, left wing, fresh out of college feminist; we spent most of our early working days together arguing about the topic of the day. We were both adamant that we knew best, me because I was young and idealistic, him because he had the wisdom of experience.
Walt started his career as a radio operator in a submarine, followed by a brief stint as a Philadelphia cop. Then becoming fascinated with the newly blossoming world of television he swapped his pistol for a broom and became a stagehand.
But Walt was ambitious and curious and was willing to learn new things. By the time I met him he had enjoyed a long and successful career as Programme Director for some of the biggest television stations in the U.S.A. Now semi retired he was working in a television station in Ireland because he has always wanted to live in the Emerald Isle and thought this job just might be fun.
I used to hear people say that Walt was larger than life, but in truth he was an active participant in life and this is how we became friends.
Walt opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed; a world of possibility where the only limitation was the size of your dream. He showed me how to take the steps to make something happen, rather than assuming it couldn’t be done.
He taught me how the people you bump into in the course of your day, people of all ages and from all walks of life might easily become your life long friends. He showed me how a big man with a deep voice from a different generation could say ‘I love you’. And he exemplified the importance of integrity and honesty and why you should never forget to have fun.
Walt Baker lived life, and my life has been infinitely richer for knowing him. So as he is laid to rest later today I celebrate him and all that he taught me and I hope that wherever he is, he’s getting up to mischief and making new friends.