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Sam’s Story: Lessons From WWII Veteran-Turned Children’s Book Author

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1922, Sam was raised in an inclusive household and was taught the importance of giving back to people at an early age through his hardworking parents.

“I didn’t see my mother very often because she went [to work] early in the morning. I remember as a four-year-old I used to get up and have breakfast with my dad at six o’clock in the morning and then go back to sleep because that was the only time I could see him,” Sam tells Canva.

Sam’s father, a cotton farmer, lost the family farm during the Great Depression, and his mother’s business was also shuttered at the time. Despite these financial difficulties, Sam recalls seeing people come to his family home searching for food and work. His parents never turned anyone away.

Once Sam turned eight, he started a paper route and gave his earnings to his mother to buy groceries.

“I always had this feeling that I could solve a lot of problems in this world,” Sam said.

The Power of Education and Creativity

Sam fell in love with reading and learning as a youngster. Education was instilled in him and his three sisters, Alma, Judy, and Harriet, early on and books became a way to spend quality time together as a family.

“We had to make our own entertainment. And my father would read to us all the time,” he said.

As a child, he remembers hearing his mother talk about teaching Emma, a young 15-year-old black woman, how to read, write, sew, and cook. Emma became an important part of the Baker family.

“My parents taught me to see everyone as being worthy of honor and respect. As a child, you develop based on what you see and experience,” he said.

Sam later graduated from Mississippi State University with an engineering degree in 1943.

He joined the Marine Corps at age 19 and served in the South Pacific and China during his service.

Sam’s successful post-war professional life included working with the U.S Coast and Geodetic Survey, and taking a flight assignment over the North Pole. He was assigned to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he was responsible for increasing the accuracy of tracking missiles. In 1966 he became a Director of the National Geodetic Survey, later named the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

Sam ended his service with NOAA after serving 30 years in the organization. During retirement, he worked with the Brookhaven National Laboratory, before becoming the world’s first GPS salesman.

Family Life And Becoming A Children’s Book Author

Sam married his wife, Jan in 1955 and together they had two children, Sally and Michael.

As a father, Sam would share his passion for storytelling with his two children, drawing on his experience and lifelong lessons learned growing up on the Mississippi Delta. “At the time, they didn’t want me to read to them, they wanted me to tell them stories. That is why it’s so important for children to imagine,” he said.

Today, Sam is inspiring the next generation as an award-winning children’s book author. His passionate stories creatively feature important life lessons and values such as kindness, inclusivity, and friendship.

“Children learn values early in life and if we teach them and embed those values early on, they last a lifetime. We need to see people for who we are, not for what we perceive them to be,” he said.

His first book, The Silly Adventures of Petunia and Herman the Worm, was published at age 95, and focuses on sharing lessons of love and friendship. His second book, Oscar The Mouse, was released at age 98 during the COVID pandemic, and touches on teaching children inclusion and acceptance.

At that time, a close friend of Sam’s, Linda Larson-Schlitz, used Canva to design creative for a crowd-funding campaign to promote the release of Oscar The Mouse. The successful fundraiser ultimately led to an outpouring of donations and Sam’s second book was published in September.

“Reading is so important for children’s development and imagination. And I wrote [Oscar the Mouse] to bring joy. We need as much joy in the world as possible,” he said.

Spreading Sam’s Lessons With The World

Now at age 99, Sam, who’s based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is showing no sign of slowing down.

He lives in his own apartment within his retirement village, reads the newspaper every day, exercises four days a week, regularly takes part in discussion groups, and is already making plans for his third book.

“My books are always about accepting people, no matter who they are or what they look like,” Sam said.

Sam’s lifelong mission, he says, is to spread joy, kindness, and spark creativity and learning in people of all ages, drawing on the valuable lessons he’s learned during his fascinating nine-plus decades on Earth.

His number-one piece of advice? “No matter what, be kind, because at the end of the day we’re all more similar than you think.”

“Age is no barrier to fulfilling your lifelong goals,” he says. “You never know about life so you should live every moment on this earth, you should live it. You never know what’s happening tomorrow”.

Sam Baker features in Canva’s ‘With love’ Holiday 2021 campaign

For more on Sam Baker’s story and to discover his books, visit sambakerbooks.com

Written by

Mel Cornford

Mel Cornford is Canva's Community Stories Editor


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