Norman L. Baker
Norman L. Baker
Norman L. Baker, war hero, scientist, publisher and historian passed away at the age of 93 on Sunday, August 25, 2019. He embodied the true American spirit with an unfaltering dedication to his country, his family and the preservation of our nation’s history.
Baker, a 60-year resident of Fauquier County, Virginia lived a long and fulfilling life both professionally and personally. He was born in Reyno, Arkansas in 1926, a child of the Great Depression, learning early the value of hard work and perseverance. He served our country with both bravery and distinction in two major wars. Norman received his BS degree as an aerospace engineer at the Indiana Institute of Technology, was a member of the White House Press Corps, and was a noted historian of the American Colonial Period. Most importantly, he was a devoted family man who cherished spending time with those he loved at his home, Summerset in Virginia.
Entering the military at age 17, Norman fought courageously and heroically as a Fourth Marine Division soldier in the Pacific Theatre including the battle of Iwo Jima. He later served two tours, often on the front lines in the Korean War. After his service, he was active in a variety of veteran’s causes over the years; keeping in touch with his fellow soldiers and connecting regularly at reunions. He served as a past President of the Fourth Marine Division Association.
Following his graduation from the Indiana Institute of Technology, Norman joined Boeing where he was a Development Engineer on the Bomarc Missile Program. Active in the space program, he was credited for having initially proposed the development of a Space Shuttle vehicle in October 1955. Later, as the result of his proposal, he was asked to move to Washington, D.C. as an editor of Missiles and Rockets magazine. While in DC, he established Space Publications, a publishing company producing defense and aerospace industry gold standard newsletters like the Defense Daily and Soviet Aerospace. Norman was also a founder and president of the National Space Club, which was established in 1957 to recognize American leaders in the space program. He also founded the annual Astronautics Engineer Award in 1958, which seeks to recognize the nation’s most outstanding space engineers.
Norman was an esteemed member of the White House Press Corps where he served as a White House correspondent for six administrations; He also served as a Senate and House Press Gallery correspondent, and was Dean of the Pentagon Press Corps.
In his later years, Norman was an enthusiastic researcher of the American Colonial Period, served as a historian of the French and Indian War Foundation and a board member of the Braddock Road Preservation Association. He compiled what is considered to be one of the most comprehensive studies identifying and locating forts of the French and Indian War. He is the author of Frontier Forts of Berkeley County (1999), French & Indian War in Frederick County, Virginia (2000), Valley of the Crooked Run: The History of a Frontier Road (2002), Fort Loudoun: Washington’s Fort in Virginia (2006), Braddock’s Road: The Final Thrust (2011), Braddock’s Road: Mapping the British Expedition from Alexandria to the Monongahela (2013) and Braddock’s Road: Historical Atlas (2016).
Norman received a number of awards during his lifetime including the Golden Owl award of the National Press Club, the Life Membership Award of the National Space Club, the 1959 Congressional Robert Hutchings Goddard Medal, the Stewart Bell Jr. Award, the Shenandoah University’s President Award, the Fort Loudoun Award, the 2013 Judge Robert Woltz History Award, and the Indiana Institute of Technology’s Order of the Silver Slide Rule Award. In 2011, he was inducted into the Virginia Historical Series Hall of Fame.
The family home, Summerset brought great joy and pride to Norman, and its restoration was a life long passion. Built in the 1750’s and filled with great historical significance, he spent decades of his life personally restoring and maintaining the property and farm with meticulous attention to detail. He spent years collecting period antiques that would be appropriate to the home as well as building materials that maintained the historical authenticity of the property.
He loved his country and for many years hosted an annual Independence Day party at Summerset in celebration of our nation’s birth, complete with a birthday cake, touching toasts, and fireworks. His adoration for animals was evident in his farm which was home to many cows, horses, dogs, cats and any stray he would find. Norman enjoyed having family and friends to his home for both formal and informal gatherings. He was also an avid sailor and spent time with his family on the Chesapeake Bay. Finally, Mr. Baker’s love and devotion to his wife of over 30 years, Suzanne, represented the very best of Norman’s sensibilities.
Norman will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Suzanne, his brothers Glenn and Donald Ray, and his children Gary, Molly, Syntha, Suzy and Maggie. He will be also be fondly remembered by his grandchildren Lora, Alexandra, Catherine, Matthew, Cameron, Patrick, Harrison, Kathryn and Jack, his great-grandchildren Taylor, Imogen, Sawyer and Izobel and his godchildren Tucker and Tommy.
Norman was preceded in death by wives, Peggy Woody, and Lois Shanner Baker, his son, Alan Dale Baker and sisters, Rose Mary Babcock, Glenda LaBlance and brothers, Eugene Baker, Charles Baker.
A funeral service was conducted at 11 am on Thursday, September 5, 2019, at Omps Funeral Home, Amherst Chapel, 1600 Amherst Street, Winchester, Virginia. Interment will be in Mount Hebron Cemetery, Winchester, Virginia. A luncheon followed the interment at the George Washington Hotel, Ft. Loudoun Room.