Memorial fund created for family of fallen Caltrans worker

Skye Kinkade
Tammie Baker and her husband, Shawn, who was killed in a rock scaling accident near Happy Camp on April 24.

A Caltrans worker who died clearing rocks from a hillside on Highway 96 near Happy Camp last week is being remembered as a man with a big heart who would go out of his way to help anyone who needed it.

Shawn Baker, age 50 of Weed, worked for Caltrans since 2001 and had been certified to rappel for many years. That's what he was doing when the deadly accident occurred, said Kerri Smith, who, along with her husband, Shawn, have been friends with Shawn and Tammie Baker since 1999.

"He was the type of person that if you were his friend, you were family," said Kerri Smith. "He had a big heart and would do anything for you. He was very giving and never asked for anything in return... There's really nothing bad you could say about him."

A second man, Joseph "Robert" Jones, age 40 of Montague, was also killed in the April 24 accident. Kevin Skillen, age 50 of Yreka, was injured and treated at a Medford hospital, according to a press release from Caltrans.

The cause of the rock scaling accident is still under investigation, said Denise Yergenson, public information officer for Caltrans District 2 on Monday afternoon.

"Anne and I were saddened to learn of the deaths of Shawn Baker and Joseph 'Robert' Jones, who worked day-in and day-out to make the roads safer for Californians," California Governor Jerry Brown said in a statement released the day of the accident. "We extend our deepest sympathies to their families, friends and colleagues mourning this tragedy. Our thoughts are also with Kevin Skillen who was injured in the incident."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Jones and Baker families," said Caltrans District 2 director John Bulinski. "We are doing everything we can to support them and the Skillen family at this very difficult time. We are a very close family here at Caltrans and when an incident like this happens, it affects us all."

Baker is the father of two daughters, Hilary and Mariah, ages 25 and 21; and two sons, Weston and Quinton, ages 19 and 16. He was married to his wife, Tammie, a nursing supervisor at Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta, for 26 years.

Baker grew up in New Mexico and Alaska and served in the US Navy for five years. He and Tammie moved to Siskiyou County in 1999.

Baker enjoyed camping, fishing, traveling, quadding, climbing, water sports and working with wood. He was always in the middle of a project and was currently renovating the inside of his home.

"Shawn had an awesome sense of humor and liked to pull pranks," said Smith. He was always willing to help people, even if they were strangers... He was the type of guy who would pull over on the side of the freeway to change a tire for a total stranger... he will be missed."

To help with the initial needs Baker's surviving family faces, a Workers Memorial Fund has been established in his name. Donations can be made out to CTF (California Transportation Foundation) and designated "Baker" in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to CTF, 581 La Sierra Drive, Sacramento, CA 95864. CTF will match donations dollar for dollar up to $7,500. A "Shawn Baker Memorial Fund" has also been set up at the Mount Shasta PremierWest Bank.

A service for Baker will be held this Friday, May 3, at the First Baptist Church in Mount Shasta.