An icon of pioneer aviation in Northwest Arctic Alaska has been laid to rest. Marge Baker of Baker Aviation died while on vacation with her family in Mexico on Dec. 24. She was 79-years old.
Marge was born Nov. 30, 1932 in Kotzebue after her parents traveled by dog team from Selawik to Kotzebue for her birth. Her parents Louis and Clara Rotman ran Rotman’s store in Selawik and Kotzebue. Marge attended boarding school in Seattle and in 1957, she married Robert ‘Bob’ Baker. They made their home in Kotzebue and together started Baker Aviation in 1964.
Four years later, Bob Baker was killed in an aviation accident, leaving Marge to raise seven children on her own. Although the Baker family declined to comment after her death, Marge’s son, 2011 Iditarod winner John Baker spoke more about his mom than himself during the Alaska Federation of Natives convention last fall. Baker recounted to the AFN audience that he was 6-years-old when his father died.
“Never once did my mother exhibit being a victim of circumstances. She faced each challenge with dignity, humility and a can do attitude. My mother raised each of us to be independent, hard working and creative problem solvers,” Baker said.
Baker went on to highlight her extraordinary work as not only a widowed mom of seven, but also the first woman in Alaska to own an airline.
“For two decades, she was the only woman who owned and operated her own air taxi. She was eventually joined by her friend Rita Sholten with Northern Air Cargo and they made aviation history while providing an important service to the people in our rural communities,” Baker said.
John Baker said he found out his mom Marge had cancer on the same day he won the Iditarod.
Marge was on the board of the Alaska Air Carriers Association. She was the Kotzebue station manager for Alaska Airlines and also served on the NANA regional corporation board of directors. Northwest Arctic people remember her as a woman who cared deeply for those Baker Aviation served. One former Kotzebue resident recalled sending gallons of berries from Shungnak to the Kotzebue Senior Center free of charge on one of Baker Aviation’s planes, saying that kind of quiet assistance to others was a hallmark of Marge Baker’s personality.
- Marge Baker Obituary (PDF)