Mary Lee Baker passed from this life very unexpectedly on March 28 2017, from a brain hemorrhage, the result of a birth condition known as Arterial Venous Malformation (AVM). With AVM, few live to be 30, less than 1% pass the 40's and none to their 80's. The doctors said that her whole life was essentially a miracle.
Mary Lee Thacker was born in Houston, TX, on February 22nd 1936 to Richard B Thacker and Lee Fay Kelly where she lived a very full and diverse life. She was a young athlete, playing volleyball and fast pitch softball, on the swim team and a member of the Corkettes synchronized swimmers performing at the famed Shamrock Hotel in Houston.
Don and Mary Lee first met at a baseball game where Don and Mary Lee's brother were teammates. But Mary Lee was just 14 years old. Two years later while swimming at Blue Hole in Wimberley, TX they met again. Don had been drafted into the Army and while in basic training and OCS, they wrote letters to each other on a daily basis. The possibility of being sent into combat in the Korean War, lead this shiny new 2nd Lieutenant to ask a sweet 17 year old young lady to be his wife. Don and Mary Lee were married on September 4, 1953. The war ended and Don graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Geology. They moved to Midland, TX with Marathon Oil Company. Fate and drive took the two of them overseas for the next 18 years.
Their first stop was in Tripoli, Libya, where Mary Lee was a hospital volunteer (Pink Lady) at the Wheeler Air Force Base while Don helped discover billion barrel oil fields for Marathon. After 9 years of marriage and no children, they were ready to start a family. First, Don & Mary Lee adopted Lee Ann from Matera orphanage in Athens, Greece. Two years later, they went back and adopted Brad from the same orphanage. In 1966, Mary Lee gave birth to Don Paul. After 11 years in Libya, the family of five moved to Ireland for the next 3 years then on to London in 1972. They helped start an American Little League and Soccer League and she became den mother for the boys' Cub Scout troops. In 1976 the family moved to Findlay, Ohio for 6 years before settling in Houston in 1982. Mary Lee honed her tennis game and soon became an "A" level doubles player and Championship mixed doubles player, all the while volunteering each week at the Sheltering Arms Alzheimer Center.
Don and Mary Lee retired to Lakeway, TX in 1993 where they found a home with the Catholic Church and Msgr. McCabe and became instrumental in the founding of the Emmaus Parish. Mary Lee continued her spiritual journey by managing the Catholic thrift store, served as president of the Ladies of Charity and headed up the Bereavement and Hospitality Committees at Emmaus. Their motto: "We bake with our hands and give with our hearts". In 2002, Don and Mary Lee helped launch the first Fall Festival and continued their involvement till 2015. In 2004, Don and Mary Lee were honored by the Austin Diocese as the first recipients for the Lumen Gentium "Light of the World" award for the Emmaus Parish.
Mary Lee was a fighter. In 1993 she had her first knee replacement surgery. In 2001 Mary Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, she beat that disease into remission. In 2003, she had the other knee replaced. Then in 2005, she faced a different form of cancer. After oral surgery and 6 weeks of radiation, Mary Lee again came out on top. In 2016, she underwent a scoliosis induced herniated disk operation to relieve debilitating nerve pain followed by months of continued physical therapy. Yet, Mary Lee Baker kept her spirits up and a sparkle in her eyes all the way to the end.
Mary Lee enjoyed life to the fullest. Whether it was on the tennis court, ski slopes or the golf course, planting flowers or baking cookies for the grandkids, she did not let life just pass her by.
Mary Lee was preceded in death by her parents, Richard B Thacker and Lee Fay Kelly, and only sibling, Richard N. Thacker, all of Houston. She is survived by her husband of over 63 years, Donald G Baker of Lakeway, daughter Lee Ann Smaltz (Randy) of Houston, son Bradley G Baker (Elaine) of Houston, and son Don P Baker of Lakeway; granddaughters Rachael, Sarah & Rebekah Smaltz, grandsons Zachary Baker of Houston and Lucas & Logan Baker of Lakeway.