With great sorrow we announce the passing of James J. Baker on May 28, 2021 at the age of 88. Known to all as Jim, he was born on 1932 in Virginia Minnesota, a town he remained proud of and loyal to. He was a generous, intelligent, and curious man, and it was surely these qualities that brought him from his small town in northern Minnesota into the four great adventures of his life.
Jim’s first adventure involved taking the train at age 17 to Cambridge, MA (alone, as one did in those days) to attend MIT on a full scholarship. He often said he was the beneficiary of the growing interest at universities like Harvard and MIT in diversifying the geographic base of their student body, and relished his college years, graduating with a degree in Mathematics in 1954.
Jim’s next adventure involved meeting his future wife Maureen in Long Beach, CA during his 2-year enlistment in the Army. He was assigned to greet newcomers at the Catholic Club there, and when he spotted the lovely Mary Grace Moloney, he decided he would personally see to it that she felt welcomed. They were engaged within months, married in 1956, and after settling in Cambridge MA remained married for the next 64 years, parenting 7 children together.
His third adventure involved the pursuit of a PhD in Philosophy at Harvard University, where he studied under the storied Professor Willard Quine. Jim loved his graduate student years as much for the community as for the academics, and later when he had money to donate it was his pleasure to support the Philosophy Department.
By 1961, Jim felt he needed to earn a proper living and thus began his fourth and truly exceptional adventure in the burgeoning field of computer software. After cutting his teeth by coding at MITRE and IBM, Jim was an early (and by some accounts, pivotal) employee at Cullinet. Led by John Cullinane, they proved an enterprise software model unheard of in a time of complicated, custom-coded legacy systems. Cullinet went on to a successful IPO in 1980 and became the first software company traded on NASDAQ.
This professional trajectory allowed Jim to “retire” at age 48, after which he became an angel investor in various technology projects and venture funds. He was a dedicated amateur photographer, but especially enjoyed tinkering with his many classic wooden rowing skiffs in coastal Maine where the family spent summers. He will be remembered for taking a keen interest in the generation after him, always inquiring (sometimes at nosy length!) after their well-being and pressing them for their observations and opinions.
Jim’s greatest delight was watching his seven children develop into “good people”, and once remarked that of all his accomplishments, that was what he was proudest of. His devotion to his late wife, Maureen, and their children was unwavering and he will be missed by them all: TJ and Eva Baker, Emily and John Black, Paul Baker, Christopher and Nancy Baker, Amy Baker and Skip Pile, Ann Baker Atwood, and Nathaniel and Heidi Baker, as well as by his 9 living grandchildren: Sarah Black, Lauren Black, Stephen Baker, Margaret Baker, Molly Baker Pile, Caroline Atwood, Ted Atwood, Roddy Atwood, and Atticus Baker. He is survived by his sister Barbara Kirkman of Virginia MN, and was predeceased by his wife, Maureen, and his grandson, Nicholas Baker Atwood. The family will hold a Celebration of Life for both Jim and Maureen in Blue Hill, Maine.