Native attends memorial service

With three local Eagle Scouts being present at a national memorial honoring the first man on the moon, another representative who has a special connection to Wapakoneta area also was in attendance on that day of national mourning.

Dr. Ellen Baker, formerly of Wapakoneta, was an usher at last Thursday’s memorial service to honor Wapakoneta native Neil Armstrong at Washington National Cathedral.

Baker and her husband, John Doolittle, who work and reside in Washington D.C., are volunteers for the services at the cathedral, and usher at special events, including Christmas, Christmas Eve and Easter services. Baker is a psychologist and her husband is a professor at American University.

Once Baker found out there was going to be a special memorial ceremony for Neil Armstrong, she put in a request with the head usher to be part of the event, as her family has a special connection with Wapakoneta and the Armstrong family.

“Armstrong’s parents had lived two doors away from my parents,” Baker told the Wapakoneta Daily News during a phone interview on Monday, “and they were with Armstrong’s parents the night of the moon landing.”

Baker’s parents, Mary and Dr. Robert Baker, of Wapakoneta, lived on Kelley Drive at the time Neil Armstrong’s parents lived in the same neighborhood.

Baker said her parents and five siblings had moved to Wapakoneta after her high school graduation, as she went away and attended college during this time.

Being originally from Buckland, Baker’s father had a veterinary practice in Spencerville, and then left the area to move to Illinois for a few years for work, then returned back to the area and worked at a private veterinary practice in Cridersville, one in which Baker’s sister now manages.

Dr. Robert Baker, a retired veterinarian, treated Neil Armstrong’s dog when he visited his parents.

“We go to Wapak quite often to visit,” Baker said, noting that she and her husband, John Doolittle, are planning another trip to the area soon to visit her father, who now resides at Otterbein Cridersville. Baker’s mother died last year, after 72 years of marriage.

In the nation’s capital, Baker and her husband have been ushers at the Washington National Cathedral since the early 1990s, and she said this experience was very touching.

“It was one of our peak experiences because of the connection to Neil Armstrong,” Baker said. “John and I have ushered for a number of significant events at the cathedral over the years. This service felt particularly momentous, deeply touching.”

Baker noted she and her husband were deeply honored to usher for the services, as Baker’s duties were to oversee that the family was doing OK, and her husband’s duties were to watch over the congregational delegation, which hosted elected officials, such as U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, Speaker of the House John Boehner and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi from California.

“It was a very unique experience,” Baker said.

She said that sections in the church were designated for the family, which consisted of three rows, a section was designated for members of Congress, a section for the astronauts and a section for the media. The service was open to the public, as seats allowed.

“We were were fortunate enough to be able to introduce ourselves to Neil’s brother, Dean, who graciously agreed to a photo,” Baker said. “I told him I’d been sending it on to the Wapakoneta Daily News.”

Also, Baker had the opportunity to talk with Michael Collins, who was the command module pilot on Apollo 11, about a piece that he had wrote for the Washington Post that how aptly  he captured Neil Armstrong and the culture of his roots.

Baker noted astronauts John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin also were in attendance.

Baker said the service was quite uplifting, yet emotional, as friends and colleagues of Neil Armstrong each gave their own personal stories to the congregation.

“It was very touching,” Baker said. “Profoundly moving for many people.”