El Dorado — Leander was born June 26, 1945, in Oneida, Kansas. He was the first son of John Patrick Baker and Loretta Hilda Haug. Lee spent his early years attending Christ the King Catholic School in Wichita. He was active in the church as an altar server and spent his leisure time playing Little League Baseball. Leander was often found playing with his Fort Apache and military sets, when he wasn’t playing baseball.
Leander attended Chaplain Kapaun Memorial High School where he lettered in Track and Field. While at Kapaun he wanted to leave the track team to pursue his true love of baseball. Unfortunately for him, Leander was the fastest kid on the team and possibly the school, so the coaches encouraged him to stick with the track team.
After graduation from high school, Leander enlisted in the Marines. He landed in Vietnam in January of 1968 and right into the middle of Khe Sanh. After he and his fellow Marines left Khe Sanh, Leander spent the remainder of his tour around Dong Hong and Da Nang. Leander saw heavy combat and was forever changed. None the less he survived and returned home to Wichita, fulfilling his duty to serve.
He spent several years in Kansas City working in construction and enjoying the nightlife of Westport. After the projects in Kansas City slowed and in an attempt to escape the snow and cold of Kansas Leander left to work in New Orleans. He loved the weather and food in New Orleans as well as the fishing however in 1974 he left to work in Denver. While in Denver he had the first of many health setbacks resulting from his service in Vietnam. He bounced back and forth between Wichita and Kansas City seeing many specialists at the Veterans Affairs facilities and specialty clinics. Ultimately it was around 1980 when Agent Orange and the resulting health complications became mainstream and Leander had an answer to his health issues.
Leander remained in Wichita throughout the eighties and nineties and worked for Boeing, Cessna and many other side jobs. He was always active and had a project in the works. There wasn’t much he couldn’t fix or did not know how to do. Leander was always active in his nephews' lives, teaching them to repair and restore their first cars and taking them out to do guy things. In 1984 Leander had his own child Tara Ballaro. He was excited to be a father wanted to be a part of her life. He tried to remain active in his daughter’s upbringing, however her mother decided to return to Independence, making it difficult for Leander to remain a part of Tara’s life.
Through the years Leander has battled PTSD, bone cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer and lung cancer. Regardless of these ailments he has always enjoyed dancing and spending time with friends at numerous diners and restaurants talking about the days' events. Other than the county tax authority and local code enforcement you’d be hard pressed to find his enemy.
Leander spent the last ten or so years in El Dorado Kansas working in the oil fields and making new friends. Thankfully for Leander and his family, he met Cindy and LaVaughn Yordy who assisted in his battle with cancer and took care of him during his final days. Leander never let many of us do things for him or care for him but his trust in Cindy and LaVaughn was well placed.
Leander became quite the legend in El Dorado as everyone knew “Mr. Baker.” Leander was never one for conformity and lived his life on his terms and did things his way.
Leander is preceded in death by his father John Patrick Baker and mother Loretta Haug Baker. He is survived by his daughter Tara Ballaro of Independence; granddaughters Kayla Wade of Buffalo and Kyra Lewallen of Independence; Sister Mary Kay Palmgren of Wichita; brother John Gerard Baker (Sindy) of Camdenton, Missouri; nephew Joshua Baker of Camdenton, Missouri; niece Stephanie Ethington (Brent) and nephew Michael Parmley (Carrie) of Wichita. Leander requested direct cremation and will be laid to rest with his parents.
Funeral Mass and Burial will take place at 10 a.m. August 3, 2019, at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and Cemetery in Seneca, Kansas.
In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials to Kapaun Mount Carmel Catholic High School, Attn: Leander Baker Memorial, 8506 E. Central, Wichita Kansas 67206.
Arrangements by Cornejo|Day Funeral Home & Crematory, Wellington, Kansas.