Isabel Baker may be retired, but she’s one of the busiest women in Tahlequah.
She’s known by many as the first mother of the Cherokee Nation, the grand dame of the Cherokee County Democratic Party, a former professor at Northeastern State University, and an active member of First United Methodist Church, to name a few.
She can be seen jetting about town in her white Cadillac, always off to one meeting or another; a tribal function to support her youngest son, Principal Chief Bill John Baker; or to a courtroom to observe her other two sons, attorneys Tim and Donn, in action.
You’d never guess she’s a cancer survivor, having lost 40 percent of her right lung to the disease in 1997.
Baker confesses to smoking as a young woman, but she quit the minute she learned she was pregnant with her first child, Tim Jr.
“When I was young, I thought it was so cool to smoke,” said Baker. “And nobody talked about it being bad for your health back then. If anything, smoking was a moral issue. I hadn’t smoked in decades when I found out I had cancer.”
In 1997, husband Tim Sr. – or “Bake,” as she refers to him – was ill, and Isabel spent a good deal of time driving him to doctor’s appointments.
“Finally, Bake said, ‘Isabel, you are all the time running me to the doctor, and you don’t have as much as a physical. Well, I’m not going to another appointment until you do,’” said Baker. “So I went to the Warren Clinic in Tulsa and had a bunch of routine tests done.”
After coming home, Baker learned her son, Donn, was set for a case in Las Vegas, and he asked his mother to go with him to help choose a jury.
“About that time, the phone rang, and it was the Warren Clinic nurse, saying the doctor wanted me to come back, because they had a problem with my chest X-ray,” said Baker. “I told her I was going to Vegas and would call and set up an appointment when I got back in a week.”
The doctor then took over the call, explaining to Baker that she really needed to come in sooner.
“I told him I was coming back in a week,” said Baker. “Well, he told me I had lung cancer, and that he’d like to make an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for me. Evidently, the specialist he wanted me to see was a classmate of his, so he took care of everything.”
After Baker returned from Las Vegas, she and Tim Sr. drove to Michigan and checked her into the Mayo Clinic.
“The doctor told me they needed to take 40 percent of my right lung, and asked if we could schedule the surgery the next day,” said Baker. “I agreed, then I called the boys. They had a heck of a time getting flights, but all of them managed to make it there that night.”
Baker said the surgery was intense.
“It was rough,” she said. “They had to go in through my back, and it took a long time to rebuild my strength.”
Baker has been in remission ever since, and has checkups regularly.
“Cancer is like a thief in the night,” said Baker. “Sometimes, you don’t have any symptoms until it’s too late. I strongly recommend everyone have physicals and get all the tests.
Baker was fortunate in that they managed to get all the cancer during the surgery.
“I didn’t have to have chemotherapy or radiation, thank goodness,” she said. “I was so lucky.”
Over time, she’s rebuilt her strength, and continues to enjoy being active in the community.
“I am thankful for every day,” she said. “I escaped; I really dodged a bullet.”
Even a bout of lung cancer couldn’t hold back a beloved local matriarch, even though it took her a long time to regain her strength after treatment.
Isabel Baker may be retired, but she’s one of the busiest women in Tahlequah.
Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation awards $30K
Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation recently awarded more than $30,000 to TPS teachers for education projects.
Tibbets: Art an important cultural element
The incomparable beauty of nature inspires Dennis Tibbits to paint.
“I believe my love of the Illinois River, especially the Barren Fork, has greatly influenced the type of material I prefer doing,” said Tibbits.
His love of landscapes – “riverscapes,” as he calls them – began about the same time he started floating the river in the 1970s as a student at Northeastern State University.
Tibbits, an instructor and clinical supervisor of Speech and Language Pathology at NSU, graduated from Stilwell High School in 1971. He earned a bachelor’s degree from NSU in 1975 and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas in 1976, both in speech-language pathology. He came full-circle when he took a teaching job at NSU in 2007, after doing clinical speech pathology for more than 30 years.
In the early ‘70s, he did his first oil paintings and three of them hang in his house today.
Senior Citizens dance makes mark in history
It was nearly 14 years ago when Charles Scott and Dorothy Crawford were sitting across the table from each other having lunch at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens Center, when Charles spoke up and said, “I think I’ll go see the mayor and city council and get a senior citizens dance started.”
Bright colors in for spring fashion
The occasional snowflake may still be floating down from the sky, but bright colors and textures are making local boutiques and stores look like spring has already arrived.
Bright colors, loose-weave accessories in scarves, jackets and vests and dresses are beginning to replace winter items in display windows and on the racks.
Neon and leopard prints are always on hand at Obsession Boutique, said owner Amanda Harris.
Floral and tribal prints, corals, melon and mint green and sequins for bling are beginning to brighten the store on cute sundresses, skinny jeans, leggings, and jeggings, said Harris.
- Polar Plunge raises thousands for Special Olympics More than 110 participants from local schools and organizations took part in Saturday’s Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics at Arrowhead Resort on the Illinois River. They raised a total of $15,400 for the athletes to buy uniforms and help with travel and lodging for the Oklahoma Special Olympics in May. Participating were groups from Cherokee Nation, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah Police Department, Tahlequah Public Schools, and others.
Ross shares gospel in variety of settings
Pastor Sean Ross uses a variety of classes to teach the word of God to his congregation, whether at church, a nursing home or elsewhere.
“Our church is small and precious. We enjoy singing the old hymns, as well as new praise. We are looking to grow in the Lord and in his favor,” Ross said.
Light Workers heal human energy
Light Workers are healers, but not in the traditional medical sense. They heal human energy.
Tinsley’s family an inspiration for teaching
Lessons from life on the farm are teaching tools for Greenwood’s newest Teacher of the Year.
Second-grade teacher Kym Tinsley’s family is important. In the summer, she works on Canyon Ridge Farm, owned by her parents.
“I use the experiences from the farm life in my classroom on a daily basis, through writing, reading, and math,” she said.
She has a happy, colorful and friendly classroom. She recently greeted two children at the classroom door with a smile. As she interacted with them, asking questions about a story, they searched for clues and find answers.
Tinsley rewarded each girl with a compliment, based on their answers and asked more questions. The girls searched for answers once more.
For Tinsley, children are definitely the best part of teaching,
Grass fire erupts near Welling
Members of the Tahlequah and Welling fire departments knocked down a grass fire on Saturday, Feb. 15 on Bright Star Drive. The blaze threatened buildings and blackened several acres before firefighters were able to contain it.
Works o' art
Elizabeth Price views a display of clay pots at the Spider Gallery during the Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation ”Uncorked” Wine & Cheese Tasting Fundraiser Thursday, Feb. 13.
- More Features Headlines
- Tahlequah Public Schools Foundation awards $30K