Very seldom does a person see Steve Baker without his camera. The business is in his blood he said.
TROY– Steve Baker, one of the co-grand marshals of the Greenville Horse Parade and Tree Lighting on Saturday, might not live in Darke County, but he’s sure familiar with the area.
He’s probably been to every town in the county in his 50-plus years as a journalist.
Many will remember him as the Northern Bureau Chief for WDTN, but most probably know him through friendships they have made with him at numerous occasions, whether it be at a local meeting or other type of program, on the scene of a traffic accident or fire or in a Darke County courtroom.
He said when he returned home in 1970 after four years in the U.S. Navy, his father, C. Oscar Baker, then owner of WPTW Radio in Piqua, hired him in the news department.
“I would cover news in the various Miami County towns,” Steve said. “While I was working at WPTW, in 1974, I began shooting film for Channel 2 as a news stringer. In 1980, while still at WPTW, I began as a stringer for WHIO – Channel 7, and, in 1983, I was hired full time at WHIO TV. My coverage area included five counties of Miami, Darke, Shelby, Auglaize and Mercer.”
Baker said the most memorable event he ever covered was the first homicide he covered.
“Deceased was Cecil Wayne Martin, off State Route 55 in Miami County in a creek, “Baker recalled. “He had been shot elsewhere and dumped in the creek. Nov. 16, 1970. I was riding that day with a Miami County deputy. When the call to the deputy came in, we had been enroute back to Troy as my wife was in labor at the then- Dettmer Hospital (now UVMC) with our son. I had to decide whether to go to my first homicide scene or go to the hospital. I chose wisely and arrived at the hospital just minutes before our son was born. After making sure all was well at the hospital, I headed back out to the homicide scene!”
His most memorable accident/fatality was during a white-out near Tipp City on I-75, when nine people were killed in the multiple-vehicle crash Feb. 24, 1990.
He remembers even more. “And the eight Minster students who were killed in one accident on Minster-Fort Recovery Road, March 8, 1976. All eight funerals were held at St. Augustine Catholic Church. To this date, I can still see those caskets in church whenever I am in there.”
The son of the late C. Oscar and Josephine Baker, he was one of five children. His siblings were Larry, Thom, Leesa and Molly.”
Steve married the former Martha “Marty” (Koenig) in Botkins in 1969. She is retired after 38 years as director of library services at Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Troy, and retired after 20 years on Troy City council, 16 of those as president of council.
The Bakers have two adult children, Mark Baker of Colorado and Stephanie Silk of Pleasant Hill, and four grandchildren, Oscar and Oliver Baker of Colorado and Max and Josephine (Joby) Silk of Pleasant Hill.
He said it was his father’s job to see that things ran smoothly.
“Oscar quit the theater business (local theater manager) to join the staff (of WHIO) when TV was still in the planning stage,” Steve said. “A big job, a busy man.” (Credit: History of WHIO TV and Radio. Undated but approximately 1948-50 era).
He went on, “In 1959, Oscar purchased WPTW Radio in Piqua with Richard Hunt. He also put WCSM in Celina on the air in the mid 1960s and sold it several years later. He was involved in cable television and brought to Piqua the first cable TV system in Ohio. Mom and Dad were both active in the community.”
Steve said he always enjoyed covering Darke County.
“I liked the people I met,” he said. “Community leaders were very accessible and professional. Law enforcement were cooperative. The judges willingly accepted cameras in the courtroom.”
Now in legal retirement, he said is still choosing to shoot stories … mostly human interest stories and some spot news… and posting on social media and submitting them to WHIO TV.
“I can’t put the camera down,” he said. “It’s in my blood!”
He said he never regrets working in journalism.
“No. Never,” he said, echoing, “It’s in my blood!”
Baker, who is in the Dayton Broadcasters Hall of Fame, was named Troy Young Man of the Year and a recipient of the National Leadership Award, has served other areas as grand marshal….of the Celina Lake Festival, McCartyville St. Patrick’s Day, Central Western Firemen’s Association parade, etc.
“Through the years. I have volunteered on several boards of directors to include Troy Hayner Cultural Center and Friends of Hayner; Leadership Troy Board; Riverside of Miami County MR/DD; Lehman Catholic High School Foundation Board; Troy Foundation Distribution Committee; and I am currently on the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency Friends Board,” he said. “I spent 20 years on the Riverside Board the RTI Board and was honored for my service with a State Award recognition two years ago.”
According to him, volunteerism was instilled in him by his parents who were active volunteers in the community.
His first camera was purchased in 1974.
“I had to buy my own 16mm camera,” he said. “It was $500 used. I still own it.”
Was journalism always in his plans when growing up?
“I used to hang out at a fire station in Dayton a few blocks from our house when I was young and got to ride the fire trucks,” he said. “But I attended a Catholic elementary school and thought about becoming a priest. So, I attended Brunnerdale (a seminary – Society of the Precious Blood) High School where I graduated in 1964. For a short time, I attended St. Joseph College and then Burkettsville Novitiate. After 6 1/2 years, I decided to leave the seminary. My draft number was up and I had two weeks to decide whether to be drafted into the Army or go into another branch. I chose Navy and headed to boot camp.”
Baker said his favorite coverage area was “anywhere north of I-70.”
“I didn’t want to work in the City of Dayton,” he said.
Baker grew up in north Dayton, moved to Piqua in 1960 and moved to Troy in 1975 after he was married.
He still gets away from home when it is time to eat.
“We enjoy The Wooden Shoe in Minster and The Inn Between in Botkins and several restaurants in Troy,” he remarked. “We miss The Fairlawn (in Greenville).”
With the good in anybody’s line of work, comes the bad. And thus, it has with Baker.
“I have been threatened a few times…had my house, car, and office broken into. Verbal threats,” he said.