Mother of former Principal Chief Baker dies
TAHLEQUAH – The mother of former Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Dr. Isabel Louise Keith Baker, died on Sept. 2 at age 90.
Born on May 27, 1929 in Row, later named Colcord, she was the daughter of Claude and Hattie Mae Keith.
She married her husband, Tim Baker, on July 26, 1946, and they were the parents of three sons: Tim Keith, Donn and Bill John.
For more than 43 years, Dr. Baker served in public education. Her teaching career began in 1950 at age 20 after she received her bachelor’s degree in education from Northeastern State University. She was 23 with three children when she received her master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. She later received her doctorate from OSU.
Her public-school career has included positions at Shidler, Sapulpa and Tahlequah. In higher education, she taught at Morehead State University, NSU and OSU.
She was appointed to the OSU Board of Regents by then-Gov. David Walters in 1991. She was recognized as a champion of gender equality and was the recipient of several awards for those endeavors. She was a member of Oklahoma Woman’s Hall of Fame, OSU Hall of Fame, Distinguished Alumnus at OSU, Oklahoma Mother of the Year and many other honorary awards.
She served on the board of directors of the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce and was selected as a Board Member of the Year in 2010. She also served as a board of director with the Bank of Cherokee County and was the first woman in 60 years to serve as a board director with Tahlequah Public Works. In addition to her tireless work for her church, she held many state and national offices with the Democratic Party. For a girl that grew up in the Depression, she relished the opportunity to help others lift themselves up out of poverty through education.
In addition to her surviving brother Bill Keith and his wife Vivian, she leaves her son Tim Keith and his wife Diana, Donn and his wife Sharon and Bill John and his wife Sherry. She is also survived by 13 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.
“On behalf of Cherokee Nation, we send our heartfelt condolences to former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, former first lady Sherry Baker and the entire Baker family on the passing of Dr. Isabel Baker,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Dr. Baker came to be affectionately known over the past eight years as the 'first mother' of the Cherokee Nation. She loved her country, state and the Cherokee people. Dr. Baker was a champion of teaching. She dedicated her life to public education, including her more than 40 years as an educator before her retirement as professor emeritus of education at Northeastern State University. She was also a public servant committed to many political, social, civic, community and church activities to make a difference. Please join Deputy Chief (Bryan) Warner and I by keeping the Baker family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”