Longtime Eagle columnist announces her retirement
by Jennifer Cohron
Jun 03, 2012 | 3056 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local columnist Ruth Baker stands near a portrait of the farm in Townley where she was raised. Baker, who has authored “Home Folks” for nearly 35 years, is retiring due to health issues. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Local columnist Ruth Baker stands near a portrait of the farm in Townley where she was raised. Baker, who has authored “Home Folks” for nearly 35 years, is retiring due to health issues. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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In one of the first installments of “Home Folks,” Ruth Teaford Baker invited readers to “‘git out, hitch up the horses, come in and set a bedspell with me’ and share our traditional heritage.”

Nearly 35 years later, Baker has decided to end her popular weekly column due to illness.

The 84-year-old is currently battling arthritis in her hands as well as breathing problems. She was recently hospitalized but is now recovering at home and has a full-time caregiver.

Baker has received several phone calls and emails from loyal readers wondering why “Home Folks” has not appeared in the Daily Mountain Eagle for more than a month.

“Everybody is begging me to come back,” Baker said.

Baker added that the decision to retire has been a difficult one because “the writing is in my blood.”

Baker fell in love with language at an early age. As a girl, she volunteered for churning chores on her family’s farm because it allowed her to work and read a book on her knee at the same time.

Circumstances prevented Baker from pursuing higher education until her first husband, Paul Teaford, needed her to serve as bookkeeper for his business.

She enrolled at Walker College, where her interest soon expanded beyond accounting.

“I enjoyed my studies so much. The first thing you know, I had taken everything they had,” Baker said.

With her husband’s blessing, Baker transferred to the University of Alabama.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in English when she was 40 years old. She went on to earn master’s degrees in both English and school administration.

Baker became a teacher in her native Townley and was twice voted Teacher of the Year for the state.

Baker also received several commendations from the Legislature and Governor’s office.

“When they honored me in the state department, I stood up proudly and told them that God gave me the gift of teaching. I just went to college to perfect the gift,” she said.

Baker took an early retirement while serving as principal at Oakman Elementary School to care for her sick husband.

In addition to being a celebrated educator, Baker has also authored three books on local history and folklore — “Southern Homespun,” “Barefoot Dreams” and “Calico Princess.”

Her largest body of work, however, is the columns that she began writing while in graduate school.

Baker said she was inspired by a professor who was a skilled linguist.

“He could hear someone talk and tell where their ancestors came from. That intrigued me, so I started interviewing the oldest people I could find and getting those old country sayings,” Baker said.

“Home Folks” was an immediate hit with local readers. Once it became available on the Internet, Baker’s column also served as a link to home for Walker County natives who had moved away.

Baker frequently gets correspondence from people all over the United States who have memories they want to share with her.

Recently, a woman from Tuscaloosa called to inform Baker that her late mother had left her several boxes filled with hundreds of “Home Folks” clippings.

Baker said she will miss hearing from readers who appreciate her labor of love to preserve a piece of Walker County history for future generations.

“I have enjoyed it or I wouldn’t have gone for so many years,” she said.

Cards and letters may be mailed to Ruth Baker at 507 Golden Eagle Circle, Jasper AL 35504.