Trooper George Baker spent much of his life helping others, and that’s exactly how friends, family and colleagues remembered him during a memorial service at Southeastern Louisiana University’s University Center on Thursday.
Baker, a 2005 Albany High graduate, died Sunday from injuries he sustained in an accident while in the line of duty.
“He set big goals,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said, noting Baker’s commitment to his family and community. “He worked hard to achieve them, and we know that that took tenacity and strength and courage and many more attributes to which we all aspire.”
Edwards noted Baker made a lifelong dream of becoming a state trooper a reality and the values of ‘courtesy, loyalty and service’ were evident in him before that thanks to his service in the Marine Corps, the Greensburg Police Department and the St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Department.
Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves used the term 10-8, which is law enforcement code for when a unit is ‘in-service’ and also spoke of the dangers those in law enforcement face daily, knowing there’s a possibility each shift could be their last.
“George exemplified this service – selfless service,” Reeves said while noting Baker’s roles as a husband, father, state trooper and a Marine.
Troop L Commander Capt. John Riles said Baker was his top recommendation in his class and recalled working a shift with Baker after he became a trooper.
During the shift, they worked an auto accident in which Riles said it seemed as though Baker knew everyone – even those not involved in the accident.
“People would drive by just passing though the crash scene, blow their horn, roll their window down, ‘Hey George,’” Riles said. “I just thought that was a great thing, back to his personality. He knew everybody.”
Baker’s number ‘L-36’ was also retired during the ceremony.
Trooper Joseph Drago went through Louisiana State Police cadet training with Baker, and the pair would ride together during that time.
“He was the easy going, goofy, loud guy that everybody loved,” Drago said. “He was everything that we all aspire to be, and I was proud to wear the same shield as Baker.”
St. Helena Parish Sheriff Nathaniel Williams recalled Baker’s rise through his department and had no doubt he’d have the same success with the State Police.
“Trooper Baker was a go-getter,” Williams said. “He was a motivator. He loved his work. He loved to advance in his work, and I can only imagine what he would have been as state police in his field.”
Williams recalled Baker’s efforts in helping rescue people in St. Helena parish during The Great Flood of 2016.
“He was courageous,” Williams said. “Everybody loved him in the parish of St. Helena. I wasn’t surprised to get a call about once a month saying that he had did some good deed to someone in the parish, and they were calling and thanking me and telling me how he was a keeper and to hold on to him.”
Burke Jones, the former Mayor of Greensburg, hired Baker as a police officer and also served in the Marines, which bonded them.
“He was one of the finest people that I’ve ever known,” Jones said. “When I joined the Marines when I was 17 years old … I had an idea of what a Marine was supposed to be -- the person who always put other people first and truly appreciated his position as a leader through service. I knew a lot of good Marines, but very few of them lived up to that standard every single day, and George did, so whatever anyone may think that I did for him, he did far more for me, because he renewed my faith in humanity, and I’m thankful that I got to know him and that he was my friend.”
For Stephanie Smith, Baker’s sister, the day was more about celebrating her brother’s life than mourning his death.
“From the day my brother was born, every goal he set, he conquered,” she said. “From landing the backflip on the trampoline as a kid on his feet to becoming a state trooper as a man, he worked hard to achieve all of his aspirations. He was brave, strong, fun, and a hero – and he was my hero.”
Baker donated his organs, and he was posthumously awarded the Louisiana State Police’s Lifesaving Award, during the ceremony, which was presented to his family.
“From the moment I heard of George’s accident, I prayed hard for a miraculous healing, and even though we didn’t get our miracle, many others did,” Smith said. “Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and children have been praying for a long time for life-saving organs, and because of George’s selfless lifestyle, those prayers were answered, and they received their miracle, and I praise God for those lives because George’s story does not end with death. It ends with life.”