When Rushern L. Baker III talks about what makes him a special person, he mentions his wife Christa Beverly Baker.
Now, he must go it alone.
Beverly Baker, who worked as a civil rights attorney on Capitol Hill before displaying signs of early-onset dementia in 2010, died Saturday at 61.
“Today I lost the love of my life, my best friend and the source of all my strength,” Rushern Baker said on Twitter. “She was our rock – the absolutely best mother to my kids and wife to me. She spent her life fighting injustice, inequities and, for the last decade, illness with grace and grit.”
Baker, who served as his wife’s caregiver, supported Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order for seniors, residents in assisted-living facilities and those with immunocompromised, or weakened immune systems, to receive COVID-19 booster shots.
Baker, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor in the June 2022 primary election, spoke about his political aspirations and his role as a caregiver for the woman he called “Cis” on Sept. 10 during the Washington Informer’s “WIN-TV” online program.
“For us during this delta variant, the ability to get the booster shot is very important,” he said. “One of the benefits of not being in office is I get to be a regular, private citizen and see the good and the bad parts.”
“One of the scariest moments for us as a family was the fact that the first vaccines did a good job of going into daycares and nursing homes but there wasn’t a great program for those of us who are caring for our loved ones at home. What I want to see coming out of the booster is a program that’s robust enough and actually makes sure we’re getting to people who are caring for loved ones in their homes. We want people to age in place.”
Baker met his future wife at Howard University. Their marriage, which lasted 34 years, resulted in the birth of three children. For years, she remained active as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., among other social and civic organizations.
She convinced her husband to run for county executive in 2010 after several years as a state delegate in Annapolis. He led the state’s second biggest county for two, four-year terms, which ended in 2018.
After the Bakers went public about her diagnosis, they began to both attend and participate in events to raise awareness about dementia and Alzheimer’s in Prince George’s and across the U.S., including an annual fundraiser which provides the latest information about dementia, a “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.”
The family received condolences Saturday on social media that included Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, one of Baker’s eight Democratic opponents in next year’s gubernatorial election.
“My deepest condolences to the Baker family as they mourn the passing of Christa Beverly Baker,” Franchot said on Twitter. “She was a strong woman and a loving partner to her husband Rushern. May the lifetime of joy she brought be a comfort as you celebrate her legacy.”
Prince George’s Councilmember Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly spoke at an Aug. 31 rally, expressing her “personal support” for Baker as the state’s next governor. Both Ivey and Baker reside in Cheverly.
“Some years ago, I noticed that his wife’s personality changed a little bit. I [have known] her as someone who’s a firecracker, like vinegar, like me,” she said. “His whole family, led by Rushern, has rallied around his wife, their mom, and she goes with them to every family celebration, road trips — whatever’s going on to be a part of it. It’s wonderful to see that kind of integrity, that kind of loyalty, that intuitiveness. That’s the person I want to lead my state.”
Editor’s Note: The Walk to End Alzheimer’s takes place on Saturday, Sept. 25, once again at National Harbor, Capital Canopy, in Oxon Hill, Maryland. As of Tuesday, 388 participants had registered with $71,511 in pledges raised toward a goal of $105,000 — equivalent to 68 percent of the desired total of dollars for the event. For more information, including how to give your support as a participating walker or volunteer, visit www.act.alz.org. Options exist for those who may prefer to walk at a community event or walk from home in their neighborhood. All local events will implement safety protocols including physical distancing, contactless registration, hand sanitizing stations and more.