The Legacy of Sam Baker
Samuel James Baker was born on April 27, 2000 in Nepean, ON. He had quite a rocky start in life, but you wouldn't know it from all the accomplishments he achieved in later years.
With a birth weight of a mere 4 lbs, 6 oz, Sam was born by emergency caesarean on a lovely spring day. Papa John and Grandma Sandy had come to Ottawa to be there for the birth of their grandson and met us at the Queensway Carleton Hospital. After the delivery Sam was taken to an incubator and transferred to the Ottawa Civic Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care. Luckily, Sam's mom, Ellie, was transferred there to be closer to her new born son. Sam spent seven days in the NICU, but as he got stronger, he spent more and more time with Mom and Dad.
Soon, Sam was home to our little house in Burnstown, ON. Burnstown is a lovely little hamlet in the Ottawa Valley. A stone's throw to the Madawaska River and a short drive to Calabogie Peaks. Sam had a wonderful small-town upbringing. He spent his summers swimming and his winters skiing. We travelled frequently back to Toronto to see Nana, Grampa and most of Sam's cousins and family. Mom and Dad were working at the time in Renfrew, a ten minute drive down the road.
Sam was a precocious child. Inquisitive, happy and quite a character. We got into some great routines with his favourite books and songs, complicated train track layouts and Hallowe'en costumes. A passerby once saw Sam as we were shopping and commented at how terrific he was and that his personality fit well with TV and movie actors. Sam got along very well with his younger sister, Naomi, who was born two and a half years later.
When Sam was five we moved to Toronto. He was enrolled in the Leo Baeck Day School to help provide him with Jewish education. Sometimes it was tough being a Jewish family in rural Ontario. The move to Toronto gave us the chance to become part of another community. It was also so helpful to have family around to help us raise Sam, Naomi and their new brother Will. Sam was bullied at school at times and struggled with anxiety. With a little help he overcame his anxieties and blossomed on stage in the Leo Baeck productions of High School Musical and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Sam said that he felt at home on the stage. Sam also excelled at sailing and was awarded the Van Beurden Cup for his accomplishment at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. We started Tae Kwon Do as a family at a little Do Jang up the street. Sam attained a rank of third-degree black belt. Graduating from Leo Baeck in grade eight, Sam was awarded the Reach High Award in recognition of his conquering of adversity though personal growth.
For Grade nine, Sam moved to North Toronto Collegiate Institute. There he found his new home in the dramatic arts program and rugby. Sam loved rugby! He joined both the school team and the Toronto Scottish Rugby Club, a team outside of school. He was a passionate player and helped recruit others to the sport. Sam became a school leader and role model for other students. He also became quite serious about his studies and goals in life. He saw his accounting teacher, Miss Conforte, as a mentor and Sam dreamed starting his life in business. Sam bought and traded shoes with online friends. In his graduating year, Sam was awarded the North Toronto Collegiate Global Education Award for obtaining the highest marks in geography and the Douglas F. Lumb Memorial Scholarship for his skill in the dramatic arts. Sam was shining star with a limitless future. He was smart, talented, dedicated and was destined for greatness....
And yet, Sam struggled.
Moving to London, ON to attend Western University, Sam made the men's rugby team after a gruelling try-out process. But he chose to quit the team to concentrate on his studies. He was determined to be accepted into the Ivy Business School. Western does not have a drama department, so his love of acting was also set aside for book learning. He also spent a lot of time with his girlfriend who was also at Western University. Sam quickly became known to his professors and teaching assistants. He always sat right in the front row of the lecture hall and was often looking for extra help after class. His classmates admired him and his teachers took notice of him.
But things soon came to an end.
On October 24, 2018, early in the morning of a lovely autumn day, Sam hanged himself from the West Brough's bridge. He was found by a passing jogger.
We miss Sam every day and dream about him every night. He had the biggest heart and the brightest smile. He had a kind, soul and was loved deeply by his friends and family.