Sunday, August 19, 2001

Finding cross is family's quest




By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA — The cross had been there for four years, adorned with one blue ribbon and two pink ribbons — for two daughters, one son — marking the spot where Thomas E. Baker was thrown from his motorcycle and killed in April 1997.

        Made of wood, encased in fiberglass, it stood on a triangular traffic island just off Ohio 32 at the exit to Main Street in Batavia.

        Now the cross is gone.

        “I just want my cross back,” says Joyce Baker at her Union Township home. “I had permission to have it there.”

        The cross disappeared more than a week ago. A couple weeks before that, she said, Batavia Mayor Robert Handra had initiated a suggestion that the cross be moved. The conversation didn't last long, both remember.

        Ms. Baker believes the village had something to do with the disappearance. Village officials insist they didn't.

        If the cross has been discarded, Ms. Baker wants it replaced.

        Crosses and flowers and wreaths that mark the spots where tragedy occurred are a part of America's roadway landscape. To the Baker family, the cross represented not just an enduring symbol, but a lega cy.

        “If that cross would make just one person stop and think, check their speedometer, because a life was lost there, then it's a good thing,” Ms. Baker said.

        The cross was knocked down once, and the motorist who accidentally did it left his phone number with the damaged cross, offering to repair it. When the ribbons got raggedy, a local floral shop would replace them.

        Jim A. James, the village administrator, said he checked into it, questioned workers and even the mayor about the missing cross.

        “I promised her that my workers were not ordered to take it down, and I'm sure the mayor didn't order it taken down,” Mr. James said.

        Mr. Handra acknowledged he tried to talk to Ms. Baker about the cross.

        “The placement of the cross was in a very unsafe place,” Mr. Handra said. “They'd have to cross the road to get to it. I wouldn't want another death there, you know? I had a safety issue. That's what I wanted to talk to her about.”

        In a letter to village council in March 1999, Ms. Baker explained why the cross was important: “If that cross can make one person slow down ... then Tom is still alive and still helping others.”

       



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