Lima Woman Lost In Ocean Plane Crash
Mrs. Frank A. Baker, 54, of 615 W. Elm St., was one of 35 persons aboard a British jet airliner which crashed yesterday, off the Italian coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea, near the island of Elba. No survivors have been found, though 15 bodies have been recovered.
Mrs. Baker, an official of the Baha'i faith, was on her way to meet her husband and mother in St. Charles, Grenada, British West Indies. She had been on a three-month speaking tour in India in the interests of the Baha'i faith, a philosophical religion in which the unity of mankind and the need for universal peace are the leading tenets.
The British Overseas Airways Corp. first listed the Lima woman as "Mrs. Dorothy Baker of Wilmette, Ill.," but confirmation of her identity came from Horace Holley of Wilmette, Baha'i secretary, who said she had boarded the plane at Karachi, India. It had taken off from the Rome airport at 4:30 a.m., Lima time, Sunday, on its way to London, and crashed in the sea about 40 minutes later.
Mrs. Baker's husband, former owner of the Frank Baker Bread Co., and her mother, Dr. Luella Beecher, left here Friday for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Mrs. Baker's father, H. C. Beecher, maintains a winter home. Baker and Dr. Beecher, driving to Flordia, had not arrived at the Beecher home this morning, though they had been expected there yesterday. They planned to fly from Miami to St. Charles Friday.
A daughter, Mrs. Hubert Matthias, Birmingham, Mich., came to Lima yesterday for a short visit, but stayed over after learning of her mother's probable death.
A son, William K. Baker, is a student at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
Mrs. Baker was born Dec. 21, 1899, in Montclair, N.J. She taught school in Montclair for a short time before her marriage in 1921. She and her husband came to Lima 26 years ago.
At least 15 bodies had been recovered from the water last night, but whether Mrs. Baker's was among them had not been determined today. All were taken to a chapel on the island of Elba.
Fishing boats and rescue craft, circling slowly in the crash area between Elba and the Isle of Monte Cristo, picked up scattered bits of wreckage, personal possessions, a water-soaked sack of mail, a rubber life raft and a jagged section of fuselage bearing the insignia of British Overseas Airways.
Searching through the debris today police officials on Elba found coats, handbags and a pitifully sodden wedding dress.
At nightfall yesterday, the search craft withdrew to the shelter of harbors on the mainland or one of the islands, but a destroyer, two corvettes and a minesweeper continued to patrol the area in crashing seas under a sky darkened by thunderclouds and lit by the white streaks of lightning.
At daybreak the fishing boats put out again and planes circled overhead to aid the search.
The only other United States resident aboard the plane was H. E. Schuchmann, New York City, an official of the MacMillan Publishing Co., of that city.
Meanwhile, Italian and British air officials studied the torn bits of wreckage for clues to the cause of the flaming disaster.
On hand for their study were the remnants fished from the water, the eye-witness accounts of several fishermen and a report from officials at Rome airport.
The control tower at Rome lost touch with the airplane when it was over or close to Elba. A short time later reports of the crash began to trickle in from fishermen.
Nearly all the eyewitness accounts mentioned one or more explosions in the air and said the plane was burning when it hit the water. An Italian air-sea rescue official said bodies were seen falling from the plane as it plunged downward.
As an official Baha'i spokesman Holley today declared:
"Mrs. Baker's death is an irreparable loss to our people. She held one of the highest honors we could give to one of our people. She will be missed and bereaved by Baha'i people throughout the world."
He said a memorial service for Mrs. Baker would probably be held in Wilmette at the Baha'i Temple.
A lifetime member of Baha'i, Mrs. Baker was named to the National Spiritual Assembly in 1937. From then until October, she served as chairman or vice-chairman of that body, which governs the faith in the United States.
After becoming a member of the assembly she was very active in the movement in the United States and Canada. In 1943 she began her international teaching activities, which took her to every country of South and Central America and many of the other countries in the world.
Officials of the Baha'i movement credit her activities with being responsible for the formation of Baha'i groups in 200 countries on five different continents.
Her tour of India began in October after she attended the fourth and last world conference of a series conducted by members of the faith.
While in India, she had an interview with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and several Indian maharajahs. At their invitation, she lectured and taught at universities in 20 Indian cities.
After her planned reunion with her husband and mother, she was scheduled to establish residence in the British West Indies, as one of a group who were to conduct a "Ten-Year Island Crusade" on behalf of their faith.
Before becoming a member of the national governing body of Baha'i, Mrs. Baker was active in Lima club circles and had served as an officer in PTA groups and the YWCA.
In addition to her husband, parents, son and daughter, she is survived by three grandchildren. Another son, Dr. Conrad Baker, died several years ago.
(published in The Lima News, Monday, January 11, 1954)
Frank A. Baker
Louise Baker Matthias