Alva Baker, 81

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 19:00

Longtime Eagle River resident and business owner Alva M. Baker died peacefully with loved ones by her side Nov. 8, 2013. She was 81.

Baker was born Jan. 1, 1932, in Quinton, Okla., to Caleb and Mattie Catherine McDonald. She was the youngest of four children.

After attending a few years of college, Baker married Drexel “Dick” Wade in 1949. Shortly after, they moved to California where they welcomed the birth of their first daughter, JoEllen Wade, in 1951.

Baker’s husband was killed in a work-related accident while she was pregnant with their second daughter, Connie, who was born in 1953.

In 1956, Baker met Clarence LeMay. They fell in love and married shortly after. LeMay lived in Alaska and moved his new wife and daughters north in 1957.

Baker opened Eagle River Laundry Center and Quality Cleaners in 1961. In addition to being a place to do laundry, people gathered at Eagle River Laundry to play cards, socialize, wait for school buses or just to warm up.

“Alva was also known for her generosity, as she would often allow local residents to fill their water tanks from her well … at no charge,” her family wrote.

After raising Baker’s two daughters, she and LeMay divorced but maintained a strong friendship until he died in 1997.

Baker married family friend John Baker in 1971. He proposed by placing a ring in a Cracker Jack box.

“With a chuckle and smile on her face, Alva happily accepted,” her family wrote.

In 1980, John Baker was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had a lung removed and was no longer able to tolerate Alaska’s cold weather. Baker sold her business and moved to Washington state with her husband in 1981.

John Baker lost his battle with cancer and Alva moved back to Alaska in 1987 to be near her daughters and grandchildren. The new owners of Eagle River Laundry Center defaulted, and Baker again found herself in the laundry and dry cleaning business.

Her daughter, JoEllen, moved to Eagle River from Wasilla to help run the business. In 1991, Baker sold her business to her daughter and son-in-law. Connie and John Sumrall moved their business, Sam and Sons Polaris, into the Eagle River location.

“Alva welcomed a second retirement and happily filled her days cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, working daily crossword puzzles and loved babysitting any one of her 15 great-grandkids she was blessed with,” her family wrote. “Alva will be remembered as a strong, hardworking, loving mother, grandmother and friend to those blessed to have known her.”

Baker was preceded in death by her parents, Caleb Ray and Mattie McDonald; husbands, Drexel Wade, Clarence LeMay and John Baker; siblings, Dorothy Davis, Bill McDonald and Ruth Floyd; and daughter, JoEllen Whaley.

She is survived by daughter Connie (John) Sumrall of Eagle River; grandchildren, Chad Rofidal, of Eagle River, Stephanie and Scott Caple, of Palmer, Amy Jordan, Seth and Shanna Whaley, Luke Whaley, Jessica and Monte Milwicz, Amanda Whaley and Stephen W. Whaley, all of Wasilla; along with 15 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

The family would like to thank the staff at Guiding Light Assisted Living for taking exceptional care of Alva and family. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Providence Hospice Care.

To honor Alva’s wishes, no funeral services will be held. A burial will be held in spring 2014 at Angelus Memorial Park, near her brother-in-law, Merle Sossaman, and her forever friend Clarence LeMay. A celebration of life will also be held in the spring.

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