Mic Baker Eulogy as delivered by Murray McKinnon
Mic Baker had a real passion and love for the sport of athletics and in particular cross country and road running.
He dedicated his life to the sport as a competitor, administrator and official.
Mic was born on Tuesday 15 June, 1937 in Gillingham, Kent, England, to Charles and Darl Baker. He was the eldest of two other brothers, Jim and Terry, who he maintained good relations with throughout his life.
The pre-war tensions of England saw the family move to New Zealand in 1939 and live with Darl’s parents in Morningside, Auckland. Mic had many fond memories of his Grandmother and was often heard citing her aphorisms. After World War Two, the family settled in a State House at 27 Martyn Avenue, Mt Roskill. Mic lived in this suburb almost his entire life, having his own house built at 17 Fairway Drive, a place where he hosted many runners and parties over the years. Lorraine Moller used to board with Mic and from that time on has always sent Mic a Christmas card.
Mic attended Mt Albert Grammar School, which put him in good stead for reprimanding the grammar criminals he came up against in his life. Whilst at High School Mic obtained a First in School Certificate English, participated in athletics, played rugby, joined the Cadet Battalion, and was under strict instructions never to sing due to his tone deafness.
After doing Compulsory Training, Mic joined the Territorial Army becoming a Gunner, spending many an icy weekend at Waiouru Military Camp.
Mic began his working life at Henderson & Pollard, in 1954, where he became a Saw Doctor and remained there his entire career. Whilst there he trained many apprentices and became the Representative of the New Zealand Timber Workers’ Union, of which he was awarded Life Membership. Life Memberships were to become a common theme in Mic’s life due to his loyal, generous, and tenacious nature. Mic just liked working he ran to work, worked and then ran home, doing this for 20 years. Unfortunately one day Mic got a bit too close to the saw he was operating and lost to tip of a finger.
Mic started his athletics at Roskill South Club where they had an indoor basketball team that took part in one of the local competitions. Mic was an integral member of the team, and his job was harass the opposition by getting in the way of everyone to the extent they couldn’t clear the ball and Mic’s team ended up winning the competition.
Mic joined the Lynndale Club two years later starting a 57 year involvement with the Club. He was a Lynndale stalwart who took on a diverse range of roles from Caretaker to President and back again. He was made a Life Member in 1987. Mic did not shy away from getting things sorted and when the Council took over the mowing and marking of the track he made sure it was done right, and if it wasn’t he would do it himself. Mic was recently described by a Lynndale peer “as the rock who kept Lynndale going” and this is no hyperbole.
Mic would open up the Lynndale Club rooms every Wednesday morning for a big group who would go for a walk and every Sunday morning for the runners who did the Waiatarua’s run.
In his early days of running at the Club he was always first into the showers and first to crack a Bottle of Lion Red, Mic had devised this route from the Club rooms to his home in Fairway Drive taking the side streets so not to go down any main road where there might have been a check point.
Later on a Saturday he would join other runners from the Club for a beer in the downstairs bar at the Royal International Hotel in Victoria Street in the City, and he got on well with the bar staff.
Mic’s absolute passion was running, of which I hope you will enjoy sharing memories of here today. Mic competed in many individual and team races, including 79 marathons, achieving his fastest time of 2 hours 41 minutes and 30 seconds in the 1965 Calliope Marathon, in which he took 13th place; whilst his best placing was 3rd in the 1964 Owairaka Marathon in 2:44:03. In the 1964 NZ Marathon championship in Lower Hutt Mic was 31st in 2:50:58. He also enjoyed competing for a number of years in the annual Waiouru to Taihape 20 mile road race. In the 1964 race he was fourth in 1:53:17, running 15 minutes faster than his previous years’ time. He also enjoyed running in the annual Tauranga Highland Easter Games 15 mile road race and he was ninth in 1965 in 1:24:29, and in the Lynndale Great Western Modified Marathon over 15 miles where he was 14th in 1965. His claim to fame is receiving race number 1 for the Fletcher Rotorua Marathon something he saved and had pride of place in his home. Mic was a proud member of the now defunct Marathon Runners Club and in the Club’s annual 60 mile two-man relay from Auckland Chief Post Office to the Huntly Domain Mic and Con McGuire were fourth.
On a club pack run around 1970 Mic ran into a power pole on Blockhouse Bay Rd. Mic ran looking at the ground and the pack were running along Blockhouse Bay Rd by the Fire Station and they parted to run around the power pole, Mic missed seeing everyone split and ran straight into the pole which obviously hurt.
Mic’s dedication to running can be seen in the volumes of training diaries he assiduously kept, which also provide a glimpse into the rigorous Lydiard training methods and the need to spend months purchasing postal notes to be able to import running shoes, as none were available on the protectionist New Zealand market.
His ability to work out lap times was invaluable for Bill Baillie when Bill set a world record 20,000m and for one hour at Lovelock Track in 1963. Mic was there and called out each lap for Bill making sure he was on target.
Mic began filming amateur athletic events in the 1980s, and in an attempt to get a better vantage point he had a sunroof installed on his Nissan Pulsar. His decades of filming have now been deposited at the Auckland Centre for future generations to utilise. Mic made many athletics trips both nationally and internationally, held many volunteer positions, made many enduring friendships amongst the running fraternity, and was known to enjoy having a Lion Red or two and a good boogie at after functions Mic used to own a distinctive white jaguar mark 7 model and if you were ever looking for where the party was, you soon found where it was with Mic’s car parked outside.
He pranged it one night over at Birkenhead when he ran into a Gilmours tobacco van and he replaced it with a very sporty for the day white Fiat 850 coupe. He always liked his cars.
He was a real advocate for cross country and road running in Auckland. Out there rain or shine with his camera busily taking videos and he particularly loved going to Australia with the Auckland team to the Australian cross country championships and being able to sit down with the team afterwards and show them what they’d actually done and generally look after them as well in fact he was the one who wanted to go off to the night clubs at night and make sure they got home safely. He and Don Macfarquhar were a really good duo always being around and with the runners making sure they knew what they were up to and encouraging them to do really well. He was disappointed when he couldn’t come and do the videoing the same way as he used to. We provided him with a chair for a while until that didn’t work so very well. We miss him terribly at the events.
I doubt if we could ever replace someone like Mic because the amount of time and effort he put in so lovingly without wanting much in return which was really great.
When I was with him at the nationals in Wellington we’d go off drinking in Courtenay Place and Mic was a real hit with the ladies in the bars we went to.
Mic was on the Board of Athletics Auckland for a number of years and while he could be quite irascible at times, he was always rational in his thinking and made a number of worthwhile contributions to any discussion or decision made.
Raewyn Rodger who works in the office at Mt Smart Stadium is missing the regular visits Mic made each week. Without fail Mic would come over to the Athletics Auckland office on a Tuesday and a Thursday and help out in the office with Raewyn. Mic would do the banking, he’d vacuum, and every now and then he’d bring in morning tea.
He had a good sense of humour and he loved his cross country he would a sit and talk for ages about cross country.
He had a real love of statistics and he maintained the record of Auckland cross country and road champions. And Mic and Linda established the archives room cataloguing and storing all the Centre records, photographs and other memorabilia. Mic received an Athletics Auckland Merit Award in 2011 and in September last year just before Mic shifted to Hawke’s Bay Athletics Auckland presented Mic with an engraved tray in recognition and thanks for his lifetime support and service to athletics in Auckland.
Mic was proud to have given over two-hundred blood donations prior to his heart attack at a Cross Country meet in 2000, and it was after this health scare that Mic treated himself to a sporty MX5, which he was often seen nipping about on athletics related business with its distinctive LYNDLE personalised plate.
Mic was an avid collector of model cars, coins and stamps, and he enjoyed visiting the annual shows. He built a model railway and still got a kick out of seeing a set running in his later years. Mic valued reading so much he kept his school reading lists and books. He was a devoted novel reader, willingly sharing his vast collection with friends. It was a great joy for him to re-read the Jean Auel (ourl) ‘Earth’s Children’ series shortly before developing Lewy Body Dementia, which made it difficult for him to read. Mic developed a fondness for cats and birds in his later years, and they provided an endless source of entertainment for him at home.
Mic could be described as a kind and humble man who could grumble along with the best of them.
Mic died at home of a heart attack on 12 July whilst Linda was preparing to sow Forget-Me-Not seeds. So please plant the seeds given to you today in remembrance of Mic.