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Veterans Administration forces 90-year-old chaplain from home


COURTESY OF BAKER FAMILY - Don and Martha Baker in 2011The Veterans Administration has ordered a 90-year-old chaplain, who once preached before President Gerald Ford, to move from his home of five years. Don Baker will be forced to relocate from the Molalla Manor Care Center, to the nearest VA sanctioned facility in Woodburn, 15 miles away.

 “This move will be very difficult for him, because his health is tenuous,” said Baker’s daughter, Kathryn Thomas Barram. Baker suffers from Post-Tramautic Stress Disorder stemming from his service in the Air Corps during World War II, said Barram.

 Last month, the Veterans Administration notified Baker’s family that it was pulling its contract with Molalla Manor.

 Baker was ordered to move within six weeks.

 Armed with more than 200 pages of testimony supporting the chaplain, his physicians and family appealed to the VA to reconsider its decision. The VA denied the formal appeal, but extended the relocation date by 12 days to Feb. 12, 2016.

   "This is a shame - not ethical treatment of a family and a patient," wrote Baker's physician, Ray E. Smucker, M.D. in his letter to the VA. "Is this the care the VA expects for their patients? I would understand if his care was at risk.  His care at Molalla Manor has been great over the years."

 “Moving 25 minutes away will be hard on my father because he’ll be too far from his primary support—his wife,” Barram said. Currently, her mother drives a half a mile from her Molalla home several times a week to pick up her husband for lunch dates.

 “My mother is 89," Barram said. "It will be nearly impossible for her to visit my father if he’s forced to move 15 miles away.”

 Don and Martha Baker were separated for 17 years. Five years ago, their son John Baker, pastor of Grace Church in Molalla, remarried them at the church while they were both in their 80s. 

 “It was a dream come true for all of us when my parents reunited,” Barram said. “It’s heart breaking they’ll be separated again.”

 In 1976, as pastor of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Don Baker preached before President Gerald Ford and U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield. Baker was also a prolific writer. He wrote eighteen (18) books addressing depression, pain, forgiveness and many other issues.

 Rock Violinist Aaron Meyer offered to  perform a concert to help Baker during the appeal process to the VA. Don Baker, however, declined the offer, saying he will comply with the order.  In his words, "I don't want to leave my wife, but I have never disobeyed a command from a superior officer."

 “We are grateful to the VA for all it has done for my family in the past,” Barram said. “We continue to hope, pray and petition for compassion toward a veteran and community servant in his final years.”