ST. ONGE - Leo J. Baker, age 89, of St. Onge, died Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at the Sturgis Regional Hospital.
The funeral service was held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, at the United Methodist Church in Belle Fourche. Visitation was Friday at Leverington Funeral Home of the Northern Hills in Belle Fourche. Interment took place in Pine Slope Cemetery, with military honors provided by the Belle Fourche Veterans Honor Guard.
Memorials are preferred to the Belle Fourche United Methodist Church and Hospice of the Northern Hills.
Leo John Baker was born July 15, 1927, in Perley, Minnesota. He was the son of Alex and Lucy (Mell) Baker. Leo grew up on a family farm located 2 miles west of Ada, Minnesota. In 1945 he graduated from Ada High School. Following high school, he turned down a football scholarship at the University of Minnesota and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Leo served his country during World War II from 1945 to 1946. During these two years, he served as an M.P., which yielded many stories for a small-town farm boy from Minnesota. The Seabees was a good fit for him. He was stationed on the USS Shipley Bay and became part of the Liberation of the Philippines. After his honorable discharge, Leo became a college student at NDSU in Fargo, North Dakota, majoring in Animal Science. He attended there for two years before returning to the farm near Ada, where he grew small grain crops and sugar beets. Leo met the love of his life on a blind date, and later Leo was united in marriage to Marilyn Nelson in Ada, on July 23, 1950.
In 1977 a small down payment was placed on a ranch located near St. Onge, South Dakota. The Baker family moved west with 100 cows and shortly after they arrived the named their ranch, “Bakers LEMAR Angus” by coming the names Leo and Marilyn (LEMAR). Over time the ranching operating grew and later it expanded into an international bull semen producer. One of Leo’s most outstanding bulls was “Skyhigh”. More semen was sold from that bull than any other in America during that time period. Since then, the genetics program gained international reputation. “Final Answer” was another bull that came along. He produced over 500,000 straws of semen in 14 years. In 1993, Bakers LEMAR Angus was proud to be chosen as one of the hosts of the 1993 World Angus Forum. Cattle were sold to Japan, Russia, Turkey, and more. Leo was always thankful for the many friendships that were established around the world through his ranching operation.
Leo was a member of the Belle Fourche United Methodist Church, the V.F.W. and American Legion, the SD Angus Association, Black Hills Angus Association, American Angus Association, and past member of the Board of Directors for the American Crystal Sugar Corporation and American Angus Association.
Over the past 24 years, Leo has battled against cancer. He always said, “There is life after cancer”, “Cancer is limited”, and “’Can’t’ never did anything”. He meant that cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence and he showed it. He never gave up, he was faithful to get his cancer treatments, because it meant going forward, fighting, and living. Leo wasn’t a quitter. He always looked for the silver lining in things. He was lovable, positive, encouraging to others, courageous, loyal, and generous. His will be missed greatly by his family and friends.
Leo is survived by his wife Marilyn; son, Mike (Sandra) of St. Onge; granddaughter, Elizabeth (Derek) LeFebre of Greeley CO; 2 great grandsons, Elias and Sylvain; brother, Ronald (Carolyn) Baker of Ada, MN; and sister, Doris Schmidt of Ada MN; and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; son, Bobbie Scott Baker; granddaughter, Krista Baker; and brother, Kenneth Baker.
Friends may view his video tribute and leave written condolences at: www.funeralhomeofthenorthernhills.com