Marion Jane Laird Baker died peacefully at home on May 4 with her daughters by her side.
She was born smiling on July 8, 1924, to Thompson and Marion McAdams Laird in Dallas, Texas, the first grandchild of A.S. and Jamie Laird and Lee McAdams, and was doted on from the beginning by aunts Ruth Reardon and Libbus Caldwell.
She was predeceased by her loving husband, Ferris, and their beloved son, Randy. She is survived by daughters, Judy Goss (Pat), Little Rock, and Barbara Satterfield (Jim Volkert), Conway. She was “Mama B” to grandchildren, Branch Satterfield (Carrie) and Mary Margaret Satterfield, Conway; Jamie Goss Dempsey (Matty) and Margie Goss Buzbee (John), Little Rock, and great-grandchildren, Lake, Tucker, and Porter Satterfield, Jack and Julia Dempsey, and Anna and Jay Buzbee. Cousins Betty Caldwell, New Orleans, LA, and Jamie Dietrich, New York, NY, predeceased her, and she is survived by cousin Bob Reardon (Kathleen), Delray Beach, FL.
Marion was a bragging Texan whose Conway roots grew deep over sixty-three years before her death. Widely known for active community involvement, she loved socializing and welcomed newcomers to multiple organizations and events. She was proud to work with many to help Conway grow and prosper.
Raised a Presbyterian in Oak Cliff, Marion graduated from Sunset High School in 1940 and Southern Methodist University as a Sigma Kappa and sociology major in 1944. In summers, she took education classes at state schools, dancing on every campus. She credited letters from friends serving in World War II and hearing President Roosevelt’s radio broadcasts for igniting her political awareness. Working for SMU’s academic dean in 1946, she met Rev. Ferris C. Baker, a Master’s candidate in sociology. Married on April 4, 1947, they lived in the athletic dorm, embraced by the guys as “Preacher,” Marion and, in 1948, baby Judy. From 1950, Marion participated in Wesley Foundation, directed by Ferris, at First Methodist Church, Denton, TX. As Barbara and Randy were born, she worked as a church secretary, and she took graduate education courses at North Texas State College. She loved lifelong friends made in Denton.
The family moved in 1959 to Conway, where Ferris taught sociology at Hendrix College. Marion joined UMW at First Methodist Church, Hendrix Dames, and the League of Women Voters. She was a warm hostess to Hendrix students, greeting them later at Alumni Weekends. Marion joined the Conway Human Relations Council, led by Ferris to promote civil rights as he had done in the Wesley Foundation. Working happily for decades as a legal secretary, she stayed involved in her children’s activities. She raised them to make friends, enjoy books, use imagination, be responsible and have fun in all pursuits. Their friends knew her as a strict mother with a spontaneous and entertaining sense of humor.
With Randy’s brain surgery in 1973, she became a knowledgeable caregiver, and, when he developed glioblastoma in 1982, she and Ferris accompanied him for treatments at M.D. Anderson. After his death in 1984, they participated with other bereaved parents in Compassionate Friends.
Over years she enjoyed the Forum Sunday School class and was active in the Mary Mitchell UMW circle at First Methodist Church. She supported Friends of the Faulkner County Library, the Faulkner County Historical Association, Conway Community Arts, Reynolds Performance Series, Conway Men’s Chorus, and Toad Suck Daze. Marion was a member of Chapter BE, P.E.O. and a founding member of P.E.O., Chapter CA, achieving her 50-year Golden Membership Award in 2019. She also enjoyed membership in the Conway Civic League, Conway Shakespeare Club, and WIN Investment Club. A popular local book reviewer, she presented authors such as Molly Ivins, Erma Bombeck, and Nora Ephron. With Ferris, she volunteered at Conway Regional Medical Center. In 1990, she and Ferris received the Ethel K. Millar Award for Religion and Social Awareness through the Steele Center for Religion and Philosophy at Hendrix.
Focusing more on political action in the 1990s, Marion founded the Faulkner Country chapter of the Hillary Rodham Clinton Fan Club with Ferris, and created service projects related to education. When the Clintons left Washington, she volunteered at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library, greeting visitors enthusiastically. She voiced activism through letters to newspaper editors. She was a leader in both Faulkner County Democratic Women and the Faulkner County Democratic Party, which honored her with the first annual Marion Baker Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Covered in bright stickers for Democratic candidates and causes, her car was a familiar sight.
Ferris died in 2006, and she was shocked to outlive her husband who “did everything for me.” They had danced from living rooms to ballrooms, played games from bridge to chicken foot dominoes, and attended events from performances to political rallies, weddings to funerals. With his photo in every room, Marion continued to volunteer at the church, phone Democratic candidates, and visit ailing friends, pumpkin muffins in hand. Despite pandemic “distancing,” she phoned, emailed, and wrote notes. Marion loved being alone with a good book, but friends energized her with smiles and laughter and she kept them close as long as she could.
The family thanks Hospice Care at Home of Conway, especially nurse Jessica Belote, caregiver Billy York, and the Visiting Angels of Conway staff for medical and comfort care as illness and age weakened her.
A family graveside service will occur at Oak Grove Cemetery on May 18; a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on May 23, at First United Methodist Church, Reverends Michael and Dede Roberts officiating. Arrangements by Roller-McNutt, Conway. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Hendrix College, First United Methodist Church, or Faulkner County Library system. Online guestbook available at www.rollerfuneralhomes.com/conway