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Former Victoria paramedic and VC professor, J. Alan Baker, dies

By APRILL BRANDON
May 20, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

J. Alan Baker, former Victoria paramedic and Victoria College instructor, passed away Wednesday in his home in San Fidel, New Mexico.

He spent his life saving others. Whether it was by protecting the country while serving in the military, keeping people alive as a paramedic or teaching others to save lives as a paramedic instructor, more than just a few people owe their lives to J. Alan Baker.

Sadly, the man who helped save so many lives died Wednesday morning in his home in San Fidel, N.M.

Baker, 52, was born in El Campo. After serving in the military, he settled down in Victoria, where he started working as a paramedic. His ambulance partner for many years, Rafael De La Garza, remembered Baker as someone who touched many lives.

"I'm not talking hundreds or even thousands of lives. We're talking hundreds of thousands of lives were touched by him either directly or indirectly," he added. "He constantly went over, above and beyond the call of duty. Every life was important to him. He was an extraordinary paramedic and gave 1,000 percent constantly."

In fact, Baker is the only paramedic De La Garza knew who had ever successfully performed an emergency tracheostomy in the field, which is a surgical procedure on the neck to open an airway through an incision in the windpipe.

"A peace officer was shot in the neck when Alan pulled up in the ambulance. They couldn't get into the airway and he jumped in and performed it," he said. "I overheard the ER doctor say the procedure looked like a surgeon had done it."

After spending more than a decade in the trenches, Baker started working at Victoria College as a paramedic instructor from 1993 until 2005, coordinator of the EMS program at Victoria College Carl Voskamp said.

"He was the happiest person I've ever known. He always had a smile and a jovial attitude," said Voskamp, who worked with Baker for 12 years. "He brightened many people's days."

In addition to his many other talents, Baker also had a knack for teaching. He turned kids who wanted to save lives into adults that could save lives, Baker's former student, D.D. Geigle said.

Now teaching at the Victoria College branch in Cuero, Geigle credits Baker for making her the person she is today.

"I met him when I was 18. I was a kid when I started with him and an adult by the time I finished. He was the one who taught me how to teach. He made me grow up," she said. "But although I started as his student, he ended up being my very good friend."

Baker also worked as a flight medic for PHI Air Medical at Citizens Medical Center in Victoria. A few years ago, he and his wife, Deborah Baker, moved to San Fidel, N.M. when Baker got promoted to medical educator for PHI Air Medical Group.

Despite the distance, Baker still kept in contact with his many friends in the medical community back home and still remained deeply entrenched in their hearts, De La Garza said.

"This guy was powerful. There are very few paramedics like Alan," he added. "He saved my life in a couple of ways and helped me get through some tough times. He left too early and he's going to be missed. But it was time for him to rest. He's done more in his short life than 100 paramedics put together."

Baker is survived by his wife and two children, Patrick Becker and Mary E. Becker, both of Victoria, his brother, Robert Baker, of El Campo and his grandchildren, Haley Anderson, Zachary Becker, Alec Becker, Alyssa Becker, Dakoda Burger and Allison Becker, all of Victoria.

Funeral services will be Saturday in San Fidel. Friends and family are also working on holding a memorial service in Victoria.

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