Heather Danielle Baker’s infectious smile was on the minds of all who attended her memorial in Mount Vernon on Aug. 25.
Family and friends filled the Mount Vernon-Enola High School gym, most wearing purple in celebration of Baker’s life. Baker’s sister, two former teachers and two of her friends shared memorable moments of her short life.
Baker, 20 of Benton, graduated from Mount Vernon-Enola High School in 2012 and was attending Pulaski Technical College before her death.
Baker died Aug. 22 following injuries sustained in a hit-and-run incident the day before at the Target store parking lot on Alcoa Road in Bryant.
Marcus Dorsey, 39, is charged with first-degree murder, four counts of leaving the scene of an accident and one count of driving on a suspended license.
Leslie Baker, Baker’s sister, praised her sister’s genuine and carefree mindset and the influence she had on her life.
"Heather was always the one who made me smile," she said. "She always knew the right words to say."
Leslie said she looked up to her sister, admiring her talent for interior design.
"She could put together a room fast and make it look like something out of a magazine," Leslie said.
Nanette Nichols, Baker’s former art teacher at Mount Vernon-Enola, spoke highly of her artistic side, describing the moment she saw Baker "bloom artistically."
"As a teacher, you don’t expect to have to say goodbye to a student," she said. "We know it’s part of life but it’s not something we want to think about."
Of the memories with Baker, Nichols said the most precious was the moment she fell in love with art.
She said Baker and her friends would work on projects at lunch, spending hours to ensure they were of top quality.
"It wouldn’t necessarily be that complicated of an assignment but they wanted theirs to be perfect and better than anyone else’s," Nichols said.
Nichols jokingly said the "selfie" culture could have been Baker’s idea, given her love of self-portraits and photos with friends.
"Heather, in her own way, could go from being a clown to being a glamour girl all in a split second," she said. "She was just amazing."
Nichols also reminisced on Baker’s heart and compassion for others, explaining her efforts to get every student involved during Spirit Week.
"If they didn’t have something [for each themed day], she was not above spending her own money to buy something," she said.
Nichols added, "One friend puts it like this, ‘That girl had inexhaustible energy. She had so much energy and a zest for life.’"
Memories of Senior Citizens Day were among the favorite memories of Spirit Week, when Baker had her hair in curlers with glasses on the tip of her nose while wearing pink slippers.
Attendees watched a slideshow of Baker’s photos, including Spirit Week, set to music.
Baker was engaged to Cody Buchanan, who a friend called "the love of her life and the center of her world."
"In times like this, it is easy to question our Maker’s love for us," the friend said. "[W]e need to trust that God is both sovereign and He is good at the same time."
Another friend recalled the numerous times she spent discussing God and the Bible with Baker.
Baker’s second grade teacher, who wished to remain nameless, said that in recent days following Baker’s death she began reflecting on her life and, like many others, her "radiant smile" was the focus.
"Smiles, love and beauty poured from her veins and were felt by all she encountered," the teacher said.
The teacher said that, no matter the person’s age, Baker always made those around her feel special.
Alan Jackson’s "I Want To Stroll Over Heaven With You" and Reba McEntire’s "My Sister" played as tributes to Baker. Leslie chose "My Sister" and prefaced the song with memories of Baker. Family members embraced Leslie as the song concluded.
The Heather Danielle Baker Foundation has been set up in her memory at YouCaring.com. As of Aug. 26, the foundation has raised $115.
Baker’s visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. Aug. 28 at Dial and Dudley Funeral Home in Bryant. A celebration of her life will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 29 at Grace Church in Bryant.
(Staff writer Brandon Riddle can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)