The Coastal Kayak family lost a treasured member yesterday. Neil Baker passed away in his home after his nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. I find it so hard to write these words because it was not Neil’s time yet.
Neil and his wife, Patty, moved to Ocean City once Neil retired from Ohio State University as a Professor of Microbiology. He started guiding for Coastal Kayak in 2010 doing 5-9 tours per week, always willing to work doubles and pick up shifts when asked. His deep-seated instinct to teach and his eagerness to introduce participants to the natural world made his tours favorites with customers. He bought small, boxed-shaped microscopes to take with him on tours so that kids could get a close-up view of even the tiniest critters in the salt marsh. His quiet voice required people to gather close around him, listening raptly while described the life of a horseshoe crab or a fiddler crab or a diamond-backed terrapin which he held in his hands. Never in a hurry yet always on time, his laid-back, patient manner put even the most nervous participants at ease.
Dawn surf-sessions, 5-hour kayak fishing sessions, taking his grandkids kayaking and paddleboarding and fishing and surfing – these were all things Neil did even through his chemo. He lived every moment of his life.
In the end, he is still teaching us lessons.