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Joanna Baker ’61

January 18, 2019, in Benson, Arizona, of lung cancer.

A native of Nyack, New York, Joanna graduated from high school in Montclair, New Jersey. At Reed, she majored in literature and wrote her thesis, “Children of Evil: a Study of the Characterization of Evil in King Lear,” advised by Richard H. Tyre [English 1957–61].

“Reed does not (or did not) provide career training,” she said, “but I learned to think, research, and express my thoughts—invaluable.”

In 1963, she married Reed Prof. William Alderson [English 1943–63], who died in July of that year.

Joanna worked in computer science. She was manager of administration at the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, California, and vice president at Bank of America’s World Banking Division in San Francisco.  In 1999, she moved to West Point, California.

Ten years later, Joanna retired and moved to Benson, Arizona. An animal lover, she participated in adopting rescued dogs and exhibited a whippet in competitions. She took up dressage horseback riding at J-Six Ranch Equestrian Center, and she and her horse, Maggie, were honored with admission to the Century Club, recognizing horse-and-rider teams whose combined ages totaled at least 100 years.

She was in her 50s when she started riding, and in the beginning, it was a struggle. Having come from a sedentary lifestyle and suffering from emphysema, she rode with a portable oxygen concentrator attached to her belt. But she stuck with it, lost weight, and gained muscle. With her enthusiasm restored, her whole outlook changed.

Maggie, a buckskin mare, was the other half of the team. Believed to have been used to transport drugs across the border from Mexico, Maggie was rescued by the Border Patrol when she was found wandering in the desert. Transport horses are used hard; when their cargo gets to its destination, the horses are turned loose in the desert to live or die. After a recovery period, Maggie lived on a farm, and Joanna leased her for dressage lessons and competitions.

“Maggie has been the best partner I could imagine,” Joanna said. “She is calm and willing and forgiving of my mistakes. She takes great care of me.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2019

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