TRIBUTES have been paid to an East Staffordshire man who was influential in helping to save Barton Cottage Hospital from possible closure.
Chris Baker, who has been described as ‘a true Bartonian’ died at his holiday home in Portugal on April 4. He was 72-years-old. His funeral, which was attended by more than 300 people, was held at the Parish Church in Barton on Friday. He is survived by his widow Jen, and two children Simon and Victoria.
When the hospital was put under consultation, Chris became a leading figure in the campaign to save it from closure and an instrumental chairman of the Barton Cottage Hospital Action Group. He dedicated much of his time to running the group, which gained significant support from the local community.
In February 2002 they succeeded in their mission when a decision was made to build a new health centre and community hospital on the existing site.
As a child Mr Baker attended the Thomas Russell School and the Technical High School in Burton before starting an apprenticeship at George Hodges in the town when he was 16, staying there until he was 60. During that time he gained a degree and served as a quantity surveyor, cycling to work each day.
He maintained a keen interest in sports throughout his life, taking a particular interest in football with the Technical High School old boys, which was soon followed by cricket and hockey. Furthermore he was a keen walker, often meeting with friends once a week as well as being an enthusiastic member of Branston Golf Club. Chris also joined Bretby Rotary Club in order to keep himself busy.
Chris’ close friend Tony Wood, who was the Vicar of Barton under Needwood during the fight to keep the hospital open also served as public awareness team leader for the group. He says that the pair attended 50 meetings within a 12-month period to try and keep the hospital open. He paid tributes to Chris and his achievements in helping to save the hospital.
Mr Wood told the Mail: “Chris had discussions, often privately with the NHS authorities. He had determination to see the job through and his perseverance sometimes was against all odds.
“The group was there to back him, but without Chris we would not have succeeded. Barton Cottage Wing today is a kind of memorial to him, and hundreds in the past six years since its opening have reason to be grateful.”