|15 Jul 2021|
How do you adequately describe a kind, loyal, supportive, gentle, man, a loving husband father and grandfather, a business man and a competitive all-round sportsman? All help to describe Phil Baker, who sadly died on Wednesday 23rd June following a brave fight with pancreatic cancer. All our thoughts are with his wife Julie and sons Nicholas and Jonathan and their families.
Phil has been part of the Vesey community for many years firstly as a successful student excelling in cricket and rugby gaining county honours in both sports, as a red house leader, prefect and 1st XI captain in 1960. Phil and his contemporary Bob Mee, scored many runs for the school, the Warwickshire Nursery XI and Sutton Cricket Club 1st XI. It was house cricket that saw their greatest rivalry as Bob captained Blue House and Phil the Red House teams. He was keen member of the Debating Society and played the Duke of Northumberland in Henry IV Part 1 when the school would put on a Shakespeare play at the end of each Christmas term.
Following the sixth form, Phil undertook a three year teaching course at St Paul's College, Cheltenham where he again excelled in rugby, cricket and football in the college teams and by all accounts organised much of the college social life. Following in his mother's footsteps, Phil took up a teaching post at Tyning's Lane School in Aldridge and in his spare time played cricket and football.
In 1967, Phil and Julie Hearn were married at Holy Trinity Church, Sutton Coldfield. Many of those officiating were Old Veseyans. Julie was given away by her father Jim who had been Chairman of the BVGS Parents Association in the late 50's. Son Nicholas was born in 1975 and Jonathan secondly in 1979. Nicholas played at full back for England Rugby at U16 age group and is now Chairman of Sutton Cricket Club and Jonathan captained Sutton Coldfield rugby club and toured India and Pakistan with a Midlands cricket club side. Phil was extremely proud of his sons and his four grandchildren. Julie and Phil celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with family and friends at the OVA Memorial Ground in Little Hardwick Road, Streetly.
Phil became disillusioned with the financial rewards teaching offered whilst many of his peers were clearly in occupations that were more rewarding. As a consequence, he joined Proctor & Gamble followed by the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society and Birmid Qualcast. Phil found Proctor & Gamble a huge learning curve mentored by some of the best people in sales and marketing and many Veseyans obtained their first mortgages through their friendly C&G manager! Following several years as an employee, Phil acquired a franchise in Executive Search and Selection with Humana International/MRI Worldwide in 1994. He closed the franchise at the end of 2012 having set up Philip Baker Associates Ltd in 1998 and placed many candidates in many professional disciplines.
Two great friends, Peter Lawrence and Colin Hamilton, persuaded Phil to play for the Old Veseyan Rugby Football Club which was based at the Memorial Ground in Little Hardwick Road, Streetly. The pavilion, which was a second hand timber field hospital, was in a poor state of repair. Sunday mornings were often spent hand mixing concrete and arranging surplus milk crates to support sagging floor boards. In 1971 Phil became 1st XV captain, a position he held for three years. A good standard of rugby was sustained with fixtures against Moseley United, Coventry Extra and Gloucester United, the second strings of the top rugby clubs of the time.
In 1971 the Club Chairman asked Phil to set up a development committee. Through various functions and benefactors sufficient funds were raised and a new clubhouse was built. Phil played a large role in raising funds and was often seen on a Saturday night as the resident disc jockey! Phil was duly appointed Club Chairman and for the club to become sustainable additional activities needed to be attracted to use the facilities and the Veseyan Sports and Social Club was formed. In 1977 Phil chaired the rugby club section for two years and was thereafter elected as a Life Member.
Phil's association with the OVRFC has been long and eventful. Coincidental with much further education being university centric and away from the Sutton Coldfield area, player recruitment exclusively from Old Veseyans became impossible and the club “went open”. With the advent of non-Veseyan exclusivity and professional rugby OVRFC subsequently became Veseyans RFC.
Further fund raising was required in 1983 for refurbishment and heating improvements. A fire in 1993 partially destroyed the Clubhouse and many of the original redevelopment team sprang into action to secure replacements and repairs. In recent years the conversation with Phil would inevitably return to the rugby club development which Phil regarded as one of his notable achievements. Who would deny him that?
Meanwhile, in 1988 Phil became the Old Veseyan Association representative to the School Governors and became a School Governor in his own right after three years, serving until 1995. In 1987 he became Chairman of the Old Veseyan Association until 1990 and was instrumental in increasing membership to over 1000 paid up members. He remained a member of the OVA Committee until his passing.
Phil was appointed by the School as Foundation and Alumni Manager in 2012 and secured a number of benefactors but it became clear that to raise the necessary funds for the proposed STEM centre, professional fund raisers were required. Phil adapted the role to the re-establishment of contacts with former students. In 2015 Phil was invited to become a Vesey Ambassador “in recognition of your significant and outstanding contribution and commitment over many years”.
In retirement, Phil would continue supporting the School at School concerts with Julie and other friends and we would watch cricket and rugby at the Boswell Road sports field before Covid put a stop to that.
If philanthropy is simply measured in a love of mankind and practical commitment, then Phil Baker was a true philanthropist.
It is hoped this brief synopsis rightly focuses on a fine man who voluntarily gave time to causes he believed in and who remains respected and loved by many. He will be missed by all who came into contact with him and whose life was enriched as a consequence.
Rest in peace old friend.