Stuart Baker, Teacher from UFT
* Retired teacher
When Stuart Baker arrived at Woodside JHS in Queens in 1972, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
“We worked together in what was then called the health and physical education department,” recalled Morton Weiss, who had taught at the school since 1960. “I was a mentor to him, and I wouldn’t want to have anyone but him as a partner. We coached basketball and track together. He was a tremendous guy, one of the best.”
Stuart, 74, died on March 29. His wife, Adrian, died six minutes later in the same Florida hospital, also from complications of the coronavirus.
It was a double loss for Weiss and his wife Evette. The couples socialized on a regular basis. “We went to their kids’ weddings, they came to our kids’ bar mitzvahs,” Weiss said.
Weiss retired in 1991 and headed to Florida; Stuart retired in 2000 and found a place in Boynton Beach not far from his friend. There were trips to Cancun and Las Vegas, and small get-togethers, too. “We used to go out at least once a month for dinner, Chinese or Italian,” Weiss said.
Jeannine Emmerman was transitioning from the corporate world to teaching when she met Stuart at Woodside JHS. “He showed me how to discipline the class,” she recalled. “He would stand in the hallway to back me up. I’ll never forget that. That made me want to stay in the teaching career.”
And he was all union, she said. When she was rehired after mass layoffs in 1991, administrators told Emmerman she would have to teach three different subjects in three different grades.
“Stu saw me with seven textbooks trying to do lesson plans,” Emmerman said. “He told me, ‘That’s not legal.’ He brought in the union rep and they changed my program.”
Stuart and Emmerman transferred to IS 5/Walter Crowley School when it opened in Elmhurst, Queens in 1997.
“He was instrumental in starting a top-notch physical education curriculum for the kids,” said Steve Katz, who was principal at the time. “He was one of the originals, always a positive guy and a pleasure to work with.”
Stuart was a golfer, and he loved his kids and grandkids, Weiss said. “He was the nicest guy in the world.”
The Bakers are survived by their son, Buddy; their daughter, Sheri De Corral; six grandchildren; and Stuart’s brother.
The family has started a fund to memorialize the Bakers. It will subsidize an annual grant for an incoming college student from the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where Stuart lived until he was 6 years old, and will also be used to help find a cure for COVID-19.