Robert (Bob) Baker
Robert (Bob) Baker in Kotzebue, circa early 1950's
Photo from the Baker Family Collection
Baker came to Alaska in 1946. The family believes that his first interest in prospecting/minerals lead him to enroll in a geology/prospecting course taught at the then University of Alaska, School of Mines, now the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He moved to Kotzebue, Alaska as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent in 1949. Following several years in that capacity, Baker then flew for Wien Airlines for several years during the mid-1950's and in 1964 with his wife Marjorie founded Red Dog Flying Service based in Kotzebue. Baker Aviation was formally incorporated in 1967.
In 1957, Bob married Marjorie Rotman of Selawik in Kotzebue. The couple spent their honeymoon in Mexico, which became a favorite vacation locale for them and their family in future years.
Bob Baker was not only a professional pilot but also an amateur prospector and a keen observer of the changes in the landscape that he witnessed as it passed beneath the wings of his aircraft. On many of his flights he was accompanied by his faithdul prospecting companion, O'Malley, a red-colored Irish Terrier, and the source name of his prospecting entity, Red Dog Mining Co.
An Irish Terrier very similar in color and looks to O'Malley, Bob Baker's prospecting companion. .
Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons
In the 1960's Bob became acquainted with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologist Irv Tailleur, who at that time was engaged in the geologic mapping of the DeLong Mountain quadrangle northwest of Kotzebue. Baker frequently flew in support of that mapping effort. In the course on a conversation with Tailleur, Baker stringlt encouraged the geologist to check out a very distinguishable red colored area in the Ikalukrok Creek drainage. Tailleur did in fact follow up on Baker's suggestion and sampled the outcrops in Late August of 1968 along what was to become Red Dog Creek. He published the results of that sampling effort in a USGS open file report released in 1970; and you all know the rest of the story.
The Red Dog color anomaly first observed by Baker in the early 1950's+ and sampled by Talleur in 1968 came into production in late 1989 as the Red Dog Mine. The mine has produced continuously since that time and will do so for at least another 15+ years, and is the major economic driver of the NANA Region.
Bob Baker was killed flying a mercy mission to the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island in March 1968 and was never aware of the results of his astute observations and recommendations to geologist Tailleur.
Bob Baker standing next to his Beechcraft D50 Twin Bonanza, circa 1967, about one year before his death
Photo Credit: Lori Henry
Bob's widow, Marjorie, raised their seven children, four of which remain directly involved in the operations of the Red Dog mine. Marjorie ran Baker Aviation, and was the first women to own and operate an airlines company in Alaska. A model business women, Marge ran the air taxi service and cared for every customer she served in Arctic Alaska. Marge was an active member of the Alaska Air Carrier's Association; she also served on the Board of Directors of NANA Corporation, the Kotzebue Electric Association, and was later the station manager of Alaska Airlines in Kotzebue. Marge Baker died on December 24th, 2011, while on holiday visiting her daughter and family at Punta Mita, Mexico.
Daughter Lori Henry is the COO of NANA Regional Corporation,. the owner of the mine. Son Mike is the General Manager for Tuuq Drilling LLC, the prime diamond drill contractor to the mine; son John is a professional dog musher sponsored by the mine and the winner of the 2011 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. For many years, John served as a motivational speaker for Red Dog to the youth of the NANA region. Son Andy Baker remains involved with aviation in the Kotzebue area and has frequently served as a lobbyist for the Red Dog mine.
Bob Baker and his "Red Dog" O'Malley will always be key elements of the Red Dog story.
Members of the Bob Baker family at the induction ceremony held in Anchorage on November 4th, 2015. Lori Baker is holding the plaque on the right of the photo. She served as a representative for the family during the induction, and spoke of her father's love of classical music and art and devotion to prospecting after the induction.
Written by Paul S. Glavinovich, October 24th, 2015
Family recollections and unpublished sources from NANA Corporation