Former Cheraw Fire Chief Donald J. “Donnie” Baker Jr. died at age 70 this week. Baker began his career with the department as a volunteer in 1962 and served as chief from 1986 until 2000.
Baker had attained the rank of captain within the Cheraw Fire Department by the early 1980s, and in 1985, he took a position with the S.C. State Arson Control Team. But his love for his hometown brought him back to lead Cheraw’s department.
“I would not have been interested in a chief’s position in another town,” Baker told The Cheraw Chronicle in July 1986. “This was the only one that could have gotten me to leave my previous position.”
Baker gave another former Cheraw fire chief, Laney Melton, credit in 1986 for his interest in becoming a firefighter.
“He’s my great-uncle and was the one who first got me interested in chasing red lights and sirens,” Baker said.
One of the many photographs in the Cheraw Fire Department’s archives shows Baker as a young child in a fireman’s hat labeled as the department’s mascot.
Baker was a charter junior member of the Cheraw Rescue Squad, past president of the S.C. Fire Chiefs Association, a Mason and past scoutmaster. He also served as Chesterfield County coroner from 2002-08.
Baker was the son of the late Donald J. Baker and Lores Brown Baker, who owned and operated Brown’s Gift Shop on Market Street for many decades.
Surviving family members include his wife, Susan Anderson Baker of Cheraw, a son, Anthony (Lisa) Baker of Rock Hill, a daughter, Treacy (Eric) Bozard of Cheraw, and grandchildren, Kody Bozard and Elizabeth Baker.
A graveside service will be held Wednesday at Chatham Hill Memorial Gardens.
— Reach Staff Writer Karen Kissiah at 843-537-5261.