Enrolling at UNH School of Law was a dream come true for Stephen Baker. He was delighted to be accepted into the innovative Daniel Webster Scholar Program, in which students pass a variation of the bar exam during their final two years of law school and are sworn into the New Hampshire bar the day before graduation. It proved to be a perfect fit for Stephen, and after graduation, the Utah native decided to remain in New Hampshire. In 2016, he opened his own practice in Pembroke and dedicated himself to estate planning and elder law, in part because he had recently learned of the financial abuse of one of his own grandmothers and hoped to help others avoid similar exploitation.
Following Stephen’s death on Sept. 3, 2017, many of his elderly clients reached out to his wife Patricia (Trish) Baker and sons Caiden, 6, and Rowan, 3, to share their appreciation of his compassion and patience. “I was so proud of him for pursuing his dream,” says his wife. “I only wish it could have lasted longer for him.”
Stephen died in a rappelling accident near Zion National Park in his native Utah. The fourth of seven children, he was on a long-anticipated hike with four of his siblings that included several rappels at Englestead Hollow when he fell the last 80 feet of a 300-foot descent. It took two helicopter landing attempts into the densely forested canyon before emergency responders could reach him. Despite the assistance of a physician hiking nearby, he passed away at the scene.
“He could turn his hand to almost anything.”
A devout member of the Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints, after high school Stephen completed a mission for the church in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He received his undergraduate degree in international business from Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Proudly patriotic, he served as a staff sergeant in the National Guard in both Utah and New Hampshire.
He had loved the out-of-doors since childhood, says Trish, when he was introduced to backpacking by his father. It was a passion he continued in New Hampshire, where he completed a solo backpacking trip in the Presidential Range. Charmed by New Hampshire’s changing seasons and the easy access to lakes and fishing, he had planned to live permanently in his adopted state. Devoted to his sons, he was already introducing them to camping, climbing and kayaking, while teaching them the importance of being kind to everyone they met.
Stephen’s pursuit of excellence extended to every aspect of his life, including his hobby of woodworking. He built beautiful furniture and shortly before his death completed a cherrywood mantel for his home. “He could turn his hand to almost anything,” says Trish. He played soccer, liked to cook and was a talented photographer.
He was a true romantic who wrote poems to his wife, and on one of their first dates insisted she dance with him in a public park as bystanders looked on. “I was embarrassed,” she says. “He was in his element!” The couple often opened their home for dinners, parties and game nights with friends. Stephen “just lit up a room with his smile and happy demeanor,” says Trish.
When he died at age 38, Stephen had achieved many of his professional and personal dreams and was in a happy place in his life, says his wife. To honor the pleasure he took in woodworking, for his funeral service his family selected a casket crafted from his favorite cherrywood. Trish and the children have relocated to Utah, where Stephen’s final woodworking project, the handsome cherry mantel, will grace the home she plans to buy there.