Obituary by Nick Drake-Knight and Lucy Hughes
Created by Lucy 8 months ago
John Angus (Gus) Baker
Former Sandown High School teacher Angus (Gus) Baker has died at the age of 81.
Gus was born in Hounslow on 6/8/1939 - just before the outbreak of the Second World War. He lived with his parents and elder brother, Roger in Isleworth, Middlesex. His earliest memories were of hiding in the cupboard under the stairs, hearing the sound of aircraft, sirens and the whistle of bombs overhead. The family were sheltering in the meter cupboard when the house behind them was hit and the back of their home was blown outwards during the Steinbock Offensive in Spring 1943. Gus was later evacuated with his brother during the V2 strike in 1945 and spent some time in Devon, where he tried his first doughnut!
He took the 11+ a year early and gained a place at Latymer Upper School, where he became Vice Captain of the School, Captain of Athletics and Rugby and Honourable Secretary of the Geography Society. It was while at Latymer that he won the 440-yard dash, or quarter-mile race, at the English Schools' Athletics Championships, setting a record which he held until surpassed by future Olympian Roger Black.
Alongside his studies, he was a member of the Commonwealth Youth Movement and served as a Sergeant in the Cadet Corps. He thought seriously about joining the Army, but eventually settled on becoming a teacher and went to study at Loughborough University, where he met his much-loved wife, Mari. He first set eyes on her outside the student dining room, where he was trying to sell copies of the College Newspaper, of which he was the Editor. He wooed her over several years and they eventually married on August 5th, 1967, a day which he always said was the happiest of his life.
After college, he taught for a year in Bethnal Green and volunteered at the famous Repton Boxing Club. He was then offered a job back at his alma mater Latymer and taught there until 1967 when he came to the Island as the Head of P.E. at Sandown Grammar School. From there, he went on to the newly established Sandown High School as Head of P.E., later becoming Chairman of the Sandown Sports Centre (now the Fairway Sports Complex), as well as a Senior Teacher. However, it was his role as Head of Green House (Arreton House) which defined his teaching career, nurturing, enthusing and helping shape the futures of generations of young people.
Gus was a gifted rugby player, excelling as a scrum half. He joined Sandown & Shanklin RFC and by 1971 was 1st XV and Club Captain, a position he held until 1976. Together with fellow rugby playing Sandown High colleagues, he established a natural path for young players to graduate from school rugby to the adult game, inspired by his example in playing style and code of conduct. He promoted fierce competitiveness combined with manners and good grace, “A gentleman always carries a handkerchief in his shorts”. J. A. Baker was universally admired within the game and remains the yardstick by which those who played alongside him still measure themselves.
Thousands of children, and their parents, indeed, a whole community, have been positively influenced by Gus Baker. As a teacher, colleague, team-mate and as a friend, he left guiding principles to live by, and a legacy to be proud of.
Although he suffered from ill health for several years before his death, he enjoyed spending time with his family; wife Mari, daughter Lucy, son-in-law Chris and in particular, his Grandchildren, Alex and Clara.
He will be much missed as a Husband, Father, Grandad, Friend, and inspiration to many.