Rita Lanita (Phillips) Baker died on August 2, 2020, at Belmont Village in Houston, Texas. She was born in West Fork, Arkansas on March 17, 1923. Soon after her birth, her family moved to southern California in search of better economic opportunities. She graduated from Santa Ana High School in 1941. When the U.S. entered World War II, Rita began working as an executive secretary at Douglas Aircraft Company where her mother worked as a riveter. After the war, when Rita was working as a dental assistant, she met her future husband. James (Jim) Baker was a young, handsome navigator in the Marine Corps. In between missions to South Korea, Jim asked Rita for her hand in marriage. They started their life together in Corona Del Mar, California, but Jim’s career in the Marine Corps and later the Federal Aviation Administration had them moving every few years, to Palmdale, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Albuquerque, New Mexico and Norman, Oklahoma. They lived in Norman at the time of Jim’s retirement and remained there until Jim died in 2008.
Rita was a loving and dedicated mother and daughter. She spent countless hours helping her three children with homework and school projects. She endured many hours of clarinet and flute practice and attended many a band concert. Rita served her community through multiple volunteer roles and generous donations, focusing primarily on various Lutheran ministries and senior citizens. Her laughter and smile had a way of drawing people to her, and she was happy to feed them all! She loved cooking and water coloring; her recipes and artwork are part of her legacy. Rita became a big University of Oklahoma fan while in Norman. She leaves behind an unopened bottle of [Barry] Switzer wine that she had planned to drink once OU won another football championship.
Rita was preceded in death by her husband, James A. Baker; her parents, Jake C. and Eva (Frederick) Phillips; her siblings, Foy Phillips, Marion Ray Phillips, Roxie Nygren, William Phillips, Jimmy Phillips and Harry Phillips. She is survived by her children, Dr. James Baker and wife Janet Baker; Dr. Diane Baker and wife Laura Lillard; Dr. Susan Baker; grandchild Dr. Sarah Baker and husband Swayze Smartt.
Rita is to be buried at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery next to her husband. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Trinity Lutheran Church Early Learning Center, 603 Classen Blvd., Norman, OK, 73071, or another charity of your choice.