By Jennifer Foster
It is with great sadness that report that my dear friend and former student Jim Baker, age 66, passed away after an accident at his home on Sunday, February 23rd.
Jim was known by many in the Twin Cities dance community. I began teaching him in 1986, fresh out of training class, at a Fred Astaire dance studio in Bloomington, Minnesota. Previously, Jim had danced as an amateur competitor with his wife, Mary, before they began their family. Jim and I continued competing as a pro/am couple when I became an independent dance instructor, and Jim even came down to take lessons and compete with me when I lived in Florida for about two and a half years. We made a great team!
In Miami, we won our first United States pro/am title in cabaret in 1993. He beat all the gentlemen and the ladies entered, and was asked to compete in the pro/am grand championship. Jim was so honored! He could hardly sleep the night before and felt sick to his stomach due to excited nerves, but he was fantastic in his performance. It was truly one of our dance highlights!
We also competed in the American smooth and American rhythm divisions in many competitions all over the US, especially enjoying smooth. Jim had a great time working with the many coaches we brought in and saw dance as one of the most special things in his life. And though he loved dancing, I believe it was the many friendships he made both here in the Twin Cities and all over the US that made it so wonderful for him. Three years ago Jim had triple bypass surgery but was making a comeback to competing, preparing to compete with my daughter Caitlin at the Carolina Ballroom Challenge in Charlotte, North Carolina, this coming May.
Over the years he did several more cabaret solos with me, always performing very well. He also had fun becoming dance partners with other amateurs in smooth and in cabaret. He enjoyed participating in many local and national USA Dance events, and was the president of the local chapter in the '90s.
Jim was always willing to lend a hand when it came to dance and will be missed terribly by many, especially me. A service for Jim will be held at 10:00 a.m. on April 5th at the Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis.