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Father Baker Boys Reminisce About Life At The Orphanage

4:47 PM, May 24, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY--  They are the faces of a generation.  A community and a legacy created by the man they called:  "Daddy Baker."

Hundreds of boys all sharing the same experience together, learning together, playing together and praying together.

All of them known as Father Baker Boys.

Western New York flourished in the late 1800's.  

Buffalo became a bustling prosperous city, and the Erie Canal helped put Buffalo on the map.

Nearby, was a community called Limestone Hill, now known as Lackawanna.  It's where Father Nelson Baker took over the Catholic Diocese orphanage in 1892. 

He changed the atmosphere of the orphanage and the neighboring protectory.

Of the hundreds of boys who grew up in the orphanage, only six Baker Boys are still alive.   

Jerry Schenk and Joe Kelley were only five years old when the orphanage became home to them, now in their late 80's and nearly 70 years after leaving the orphanage, their memories are still vivid.

Jerry Schenk says he did feel different than other kids, "Oh ya, ya, ya... you felt like you were robbed of something, like you didn't have it."

Joe Kelley says, "When you are there for a little while you just get used to it, like in the Army; everyone in the same uniform, pretty much what that was like."

Joe and Jerry recall that each day was pretty routine at the orphanage, they would wake up at 5am, make their beds, wash up, go to mass and then eat breakfast.  After that, you went outside, where you might be shooting marbles, or start up a baseball game.

Joe and Jerry only have good memories growing up as Baker Boys.

They told 2 On Your Side's Scott Levin they thought they were lucky to have 200 brothers when other kids only had one or two.

One of those brothers was Mickey Massaro, now the oldest living Baker Boy at 90 years old and living in Iowa.  

Massaro said living at the orphanage was a lot of fun and that Father Baker was larger than life. "The first time I met him was at the quarantine house, and we couldn't go past an invisible line, someone hollered out 'Father Baker's coming!'.  The yard just swarmed with kids towards him."

Father Baker loved the boys and cared for the boys like each one was his very own son.   Jerry Schenk says, "A lot of times you just called him daddy, Daddy Baker.  He was our father, who else could be our father?"

Many of the kids used to sing a song to Father Baker, and he loved that.

All of the men remember him reaching into his pocket and throwing candy out, two-cent Baby Ruth bars.

Father Baker continued his good work until his death in 1936 at the age of 94.

His death was the first time many of the boys felt the true loss of a loved one.

Many of the boys went off to war, or went to work when they were old enough to leave the orphanage.

Joe started a family, and Jerry entered the Navy in 1945 then ran locomotives, he also started a family and even adopted two children from Father Bakers.

The remaining Baker Boys are deeply religious, praying daily to Father Baker, hoping he becomes a Saint one day.

Each of them is convinced he is a saint because of the many miracles he performed, and they are looking forward to seeing him again one day in heaven.

Father Baker was recently named "venerable" which identifies him as living a life of "heroic virtue." The next step will be to be named "Blessed" upon acceptance of a miracle.

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