Noted county historian leaves lasting memories


Genealogist and local historian Sue Baker, 81, died Sunday. In addition to spending countless hours researching and writing books on the county's Civil War era, Baker often helped people trace their roots. (Photo provided)

GREENFIELD — In the preface of her book, “Civil War Soldiers,” Sue Baker wrote, “I have spent hours and hours deciphering names that had been transcribed from original regiment records kept by an army company clerk whose fancy flourishes of penmanship and phonetic spelling constantly became cantankerous puzzles for me.”

That is but a brief glimpse into the mind of the county’s top genealogist and one of the county’s highly respected historians, who died Sunday.

Baker, 81, dedicated her life to tracing the past. As a genealogist and author of numerous county history books, including “Civil War Era,” a book she co-authored with local historians Joe Skvarenina and Elayne Stewart, Baker had a passion for detail and a gift for exploring it.

“She was my mentor and a good friend,” Skvarenina said. “She was always kind and friendly and had the patience to give me the guidance to find the facts.”    

With a meticulous manner and an outgoing personality, Baker, a Greenfield native and 1950 Greenfield High School graduate, had the perfect demeanor for the type of work she loved to do – researching history and uncovering hard-to-find facts, Skvarenina said.

“She just had the habit of being able to find something that no one else could find,” Skvarenina said. “When I was stumped, I would always go to Sue Baker.”

Her friends and colleagues say when Baker and her husband, James, weren’t out doing painstaking researching and walking through old county cemeteries, she was deep into tracing some family’s history.

“I think she was more into chasing family roots than anything else,” Skvarenina said.

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