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News
Remembering part of UA ╬family'


By Greg Holt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 23, 2003

Union worker Betty Baker dies at 72

Betty Baker, a longtime employee of the Student Union Memorial Center who was close to a countless number of students and fellow staff members, died over the weekend at the age of 72.

Baker served food and lifted the spirits at the student union for more than 20 years, starting at the Terrace Dining Room in 1980 and then moving over to the Fiddlee Fig 10 years later.

"The university can be an intimidating place and can seem large and impersonal. Then there's Betty. She made the university feel like a family," said President Peter Likins.

Baker died after suffering from a chronic respiratory illness for many years.

Likins said he met Baker not long after he arrived at the university in 1997. His assistant knew that Baker was one person he definitely had to meet.

"She's kind of a fixture, a friendly symbol of the university," said Likins. "She was the human face and human presence of the faculty and staff."

Baker retired in 2001, an event marked by a retirement party with more than 100 students and fellow employees.

"Students came from as far away as the East coast for her retirement," said Carol Underwood, a longtime friend of Baker's who started work at the student union the same day as Baker.

"She always came in with a smile; she would listen to student's problems and help them work it out," Underwood said, adding that she became a sort of mother figure for many students.

At her retirement, the serving line at the Cactus Grill was named Betty's Buffet in honor of Baker.

"She loved her job, it was her life. When she had to retire for health reasons, she was really upset about it," Underwood said.

Baker came to Tucson in 1975 with her two sons, John and Jay.

Her daughter, Lisa, was already at the UA as a student.

"I never in all the years saw her angry," said Underwood. "She was a wonderful friend and mother who did a lot for her church." Underwood added that Baker taught Sunday school for many years.

"She could remember anyone's name," said Betsy Freeman, office specialist for the union.

"She was like a mom away from mom for so many people."

Baker became good friends with many UA athletes, and even in her declining health, her school spirit never abated, said Underwood.

"She was an avid sports fan. She was an avid Wildcat," Underwood said.

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