Wayne B. Baker


Wayne Braley Baker passed December 6, 2022, at the age of 98 after a long and busy life. He was born in Afton, Wyoming, August 15, 1924, to William Alonzo and Blanche Braley Baker, number six of nine children.

From childhood, Wayne possessed the fortitude and determination to be successful. During the summers, he worked long days on local farms. In his spare time, he would gather scrap metal to sell, collect and sell the wool and bones from winter-killed sheep, and trap muskrats and sell the hides. All of this was in addition, of course, to working his household chores and tending to the family livestock.

At the age of 16, he received a permit from the forest service to cut cedar posts. He hired two kids his age and a 25-year-old man to assist him with the cutting, harvesting, and distribution of these posts to local farmers.

When a severe car wreck prevented him from completing his school year, Wayne went to California at 17 to live with his brother and earn money to complete high school, arriving on December 6, 1941. He got a job delivering telegrams, bicycling up to 100 miles a day. He later worked at a shipyard welding with his cousin Max.

Wayne enlisted in the Army Air Corp and was trained as a flight engineer and top-turret gunner. He saved his plane and crew of 10 twice under very harrowing circumstances and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He remained a patriot all his life and gave copies of the U.S. Constitution with his autobiography Above the Clouds, The Story of an American Entrepreneur.

While visiting his cousin in Ogden on leave, he met Mariam Meister. They were married October 4. 1945. They had eight children, 41 grandchildren, 105 great-grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren – 165 descendants.

Wayne worked as a carpenter with his brothers and he and Mariam later built a home in Great Falls, Montana, and in Roy, Utah, doing most of the work themselves. They had a resale shop in Roy, Utah, when Wayne became aware of the potential in scrapping out mines in Carbon County, Utah. They moved their family to the ghost town of Rains in 1956 while he scrapped out Rains and Spring Canyon mines. They founded Mountain States Machinery and Supply in Carbonville, which was awarded the 1967 Industrial Achievement Award of Utah for the most aggressive development of a company in that year.

They bought and dismantled the railroad bridge at Consumers and Wayne used the giant beams to build several bridges. They scrapped out Lion Coal at Wattis and built Plateau Mine, which was successful for many years. He holds patents for inventions he used at the mine. (He also has several gun patents.)

He was an excellent marksman. His father would challenge men to shoot against Wayne when he was very young and he would usually win the match. When he and Mariam sold the mine, they invested in Rocky Mountain Arms. They bought an old homestead near Freedom, Wyoming, and founded Freedom Arms, which is known worldwide for excellent handguns. Wayne later turned the company over to his sons and son-in-law and went back to metal fabrication, designing and building close to 100 steel bridges, the last at age 95. He built and designed many other projects as well.

He loved to learn, especially science and history. When illness made it impossible to build bridges anymore, he continued to study, using his iPad to watch history and science programs. At the time of his 98th birthday, he was watching histories of the U.S. Presidents and had reached Fillmore.

He always attributed his success with their many ventures to Mariam, who was a full partner in all that they did. She was his sweetheart, his mentor, and his partner for 73 years. They worked and traveled the world together. He missed her terribly and didn’t enjoy life without her.

Wayne is survived by children Connie (Don) McCourt, Christine Wilshaw, Claudia (Ron) Hartley, Bob (Patrice) Baker, Susan (Mike) Hepworth, Don (Claudia), and Bonnie (Corey) Pantuso and his sister Elcie Walker. He was preceded in death by his parents, wife Mariam, son Alan, daughter-in-law Sandy, son-in-law Russ, granddaughter Jodi, great-granddaughter Candice, and great-grandson Tucker. He was also preceded by brothers Lloyd, Carl, Dennis, Rex, Lester, and sisters Vella and Margie.

The funeral service was held in Freedom, Wyoming, on December 10.

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