GREEN BROOK, NJ – Mary Baker, a longtime resident of Green Brook and a former teacher for the school district, will turn 100 years young on May 10 and, in honor of this milestone birthday, a special assembly was held Monday at Irene E. Feldkirchner (IEF) Elementary School.
“The new word you are going to learn today is 'centenarian.' A centenarian is somebody who is 100 years old,” Beth Stanton, acting principal of IEF, told the students. “There are over 318 million people who live in the United States … but there are only a little over 43,000 who are 100 years old or older; that is less than 2-percent of the people in the United States and, as of May 10, Mary Baker will join that very small club of people.”’
As a tribute to Baker, students sang ‘Happy Birthday,' presented her with handmade flowers and cards, and second grader Kasey Cupit read a special short story she wrote about ‘100.’ Additionally, Green Brook Township administrators Kelly Cupit and Ray Murray, along with Green Brook Committeeman Jerry Searfoss were in attendance.
Searfoss, a longtime neighbor of Baker’s, shared with the students what was written on an official town proclamation officially declaring May 10 as Mary Baker Day. The proclamation, which highlights Baker’s years of dedication and service to the Green Brook community, reads, in part:
“Mary’s commitment to family and community spanning her 100 years is unrivaled in Green Brook and beyond; Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Township Committee of the Township of Green Brook, that Mary Baker be and is hereby recognized for the indelible mark she has made on generations of individuals and families in the Township of Green Brook; Be it further resolved that from this day forward, May 10th be and is hereby known as Mary Baker Day.”
During the assembly, Baker shared stories from her life, including how different things were ‘back in the day.’ Born on May 10, 1916 and raised on a Maryland farm, Baker told the students how, growing up, lanterns were used for electricity, bathrooms were outhouses and horses were the only form of transportation.
As a student, Baker walked to a one-room schoolhouse located a mile away to attend first through sixth grade. High school back then only went up to 11th grade and in 1933 she graduated, her class comprised of only 15 students – 3 boys and 12 girls. Her parents didn't have the money to send her to college so Baker worked her way through, serving as a nanny and housekeeper while working toward a bachelor’s of art degree from Pennsylvania’s Drexel University.
Baker’s worked as a home economics teacher in Point Pleasant for two years. There, she met her late husband Gordon, a football coach. She was then hired to teach freshman through seniors at North Plainfield High School and Gordon also secured a job with the district. After marrying, the Bakers rented a small apartment in Dunellen for six year and, in 1948, moved to Green Brook to raise their two daughters, Mary and Barbara.
While her daughters were young, Baker got involved with the schools, volunteering her time in the cafeteria and on field trips.
In the late 1950s, she became a part-time home economics teacher at the Andrew Street School – which later became known the Irene E. Feldkirchner Elementary School, and worked alongside the school’s namesake.
Baker spent the next 10 years at the elementary school and then went on to work for eight more years at Green Brook High School before retiring at the age of 60. She remained actively involved in the community, serving church and social groups in and around Green Brook.
Baker has resided in the same Mountain Parkway home for 67 years. In addition to her two daughters, she is a proud grandmother of four and great grandmother of five.
“This is my home. I have been here all this time and don’t plan on going anywhere,” Baker told TAPinto. When asked how she felt about her upcoming milestone birthday, Baker added, “I don’t how I got here – to be 100 – but here I am and I am good!”