Campus will miss Sally Baker’s presence


Sally Baker, 77, who died in a pedestrian-car accident last week just outside the campus gate, was described as creature of habit, a woman of prayer and a devoted member of the Detroit Mercy community. She will truly be missed. 

She took her time as she moved about her business, slow and steady.

You knew she was coming by the slow drag of her feet down the salt-covered tile flooring in the Detroit Mercy hallways.

She would usually be carrying at least three bags at a time, peering through her little glasses held together by a pin with a cross on the end. 

With long white hair neatly pinned back, she dressed in layers, ready for the winter time.

Sally Baker is sure going to be missed.

Though not a student or staff member here, she was a community member who was present on campus regularly for many years.

The morning custodial staff at Detroit Mercy fondly remembered her spending mornings in the student lounge, preparing microwave meals and wiping down the surfaces with the Clorox wipes she carried.

“She is sure going to be missed. God bless her soul,” said Tyree Fluckes, a custodian at Detroit Mercy.

He watched Ms. Baker coming and going throughout the campus for 15 years. 

Mary Kay Dobrovolny, a Sister of Mercy,  described her as “very much a woman of prayer.”

She was, Dobrovolny added, “a model of a woman who took her faith, spirituality and religious practice very seriously. She was often found praying the liturgy, rosary and participating with people in adoration, so prayer was clearly an essential part of her life.  She was a visible witness to that on this campus.”   

Erin McDonald, university minister for service and justice, agreed.

“I feel that Sally’s presence on campus seemed to bring out the best in people,” she said. “It was really touching to hear about how so many people on campus went out of their way to help her, to be of support to her and who genuinely cared about her. That says a lot about what she brought out in us because she was a woman who was in need and had a lot of challenges in her life, and from one end of campus to the other there were people who really came together on her behalf.”   

Students who went to daily mass said they were inspired by Baker’s prayerfulness and how she seemed to have a personal and intimate relationship with Christ. 

Often times you could find her sitting in the tabernacle talking to God. 

“She would just have this conversation with Jesus, unabashedly herself,” said McDonald. 

Faculty and students who gathered in reflection last week said they feel her spirit will still be a part of campus. 

“Sally would really want our campus to embrace healing and moving forward,” McDonald said. “Also, to have a mindfulness towards those students that were involved in the accident, recognizing the grief, suffering and struggle.  Sally would want students to know that they are invited into forgiveness, healing and moving forward.”

This could have been anyone’s mistake.

It’s important for us to remember that we don’t know what happened. 

We don’t want to embrace a story that we don’t know in terms of how this came to be but embrace a sense of realization and new awareness. 

Sometimes tragedy reminds all of us to be more careful, attentive, present and mindful.

Also, moments like this remind us to be grateful because accidents and tragedy happen. 

For those who may wonder how such a terrible thing could happen to such a prayerful and devoted Christian, McDonald said, “Beautiful things and bad things happen to everyone, and in the beautiful things and the bad things God is equally present, and God’s love is equally woven through all of the fabric of our lives. Even in our moments of suffering, God is there with us and loves us through it. Beauty and tragedy is part of everyone’s life in different ways.”