“Baker” Melson passed away on 6 August 2023 in St. Louis, MO, at age 76 after trying very hard to give cancer a swift kick in the ass. He was surrounded by his wife of 52 years, Wanda; children, Rita and Don and their spouses, and his six grandchildren.

Baker was born on 29 August 1946 in Arlington, VA, to the late Josephine and Frank Melson. He grew up in Virginia and enlisted in the Navy after graduating from Washington and Lee High School. Baker attended the Naval Preparatory School, then progressed to the Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1970. One of his favorite sports at Annapolis was crew.

Baker met Wanda Gray in Pensacola, FL, during flight school training. They married on 26 June 1971 and together they traveled the world. He was a part of many squadrons, including the Hoot Owls in Key West, FL, and VA-93 in Yokosuka, Japan. He flew five different jets, his favorite being the A-5. Career highlights include serving as CAG LSO and as commanding officer of an amphibious squadron. Baker retired in 1990 out of Coronado, CA, after a successful 21-year career.

One memorable Navy moment was doing a Tiger Cruise with his son from Hawaii to San Diego. Rough seas caused sea sickness and speakers to fall off walls onto Don’s head; that sure was an event that would never be forgotten by either of them.

After retiring from the Navy, Baker continued serving (commanding) young people and teaching the concept of having pride in your work. Many employees have fond memories of him as their boss from Baker’s time owning a Chick-fil-A and working in facilities management at Northwest Missouri State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Auburn University and the University of West Florida.

Baker fully retired to Pensacola, FL, where he loved creating stained glass, boating and volunteering at the National Naval Aviation Museum. The museum was a particular joy. He enjoyed being able to introduce visitors and his grandchildren to the fun of being a fighter pilot and serving your country.

Baker is survived by his wife, Wanda; daughter, Rita Kipp (John); son, Don Melson (April); grandchildren, Peyton, Josie, Isaac, Xander, Ethan and Erik; his sister, Kitsie Ballard; and brother, John Melson.

Baker’s memorial took place at Ft. Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, FL, on 12 January 2024 with full military honors.

Updated: February 19, 2024
Curator: Ed Moore