Trail of tears

Published 9:38 am Thursday, March 3, 2016

Family member and friends of the late Ruby Baker gathered in March of last year to remember the life of the 85-year-old who was murdered on March 2, 2014. | File Photos

Family member and friends of the late Ruby Baker gathered in March of last year to remember the life of the 85-year-old who was murdered on March 2, 2014. | File Photos

AHOSKIE – The family of the late Ruby Martin Baker marked the second anniversary of her death on March 2 by holding hands, saying a prayer and laying flowers at her grave in the Ahoskie Cemetery.

While there, they also whispered prayers for the Ahoskie Police Department who continue to search for the person or persons responsible for bringing the life of the 85-year-old Parker Avenue resident to an abrupt and tragic end.

And there was also a prayer lifted up in the name of the murderer.

“I can’t go as far as to say that I love the person that murdered my mother, but I can say that I pray every night that they will let Jesus in their heart and turn their life around. That way when they die they’ll go to heaven and you know what….the first person there to greet them will be my mother, and she will wrap her arms around them and say I love you,” said Baker’s daughter, Linda Meeks of Ahoskie.

Meeks added that while the sudden onset of grief and suffering from two years ago have slowly subsided, the emotional scars left on the Baker family still runs deep.

Baker, a native of Northampton County, lived in Ahoskie from 1952 until 2014.

Baker, a native of Northampton County, lived in Ahoskie from 1952 until 2014.

“No one deserves to die the way my momma did….especially not after the way she lived her life, one that she dedicated in love and support of her family and friends, and to her savior, Jesus Christ,” Meeks stressed. “Her death needed to be at the will of God, not by a bullet.

“The Bible teaches me not to hate, and I do not hate the person that murdered my momma,” she continued. “Right now that person’s heart is void of love and compassion for others. That’s why I pray that God will fill their heart with love and compassion.”

Meeks’ younger sister, Mary Lou Byrum of Ahoskie, said her whole life changed in the blink of an eye when she received a telephone call from the Ahoskie Police in the early morning hours of March 2, 2014. She noted previous calls to go to her mother’s house because the ADT alarm system had alerted family and police, but all of those instances were because Mrs. Baker had opened the door to let her four-legged companion, Snoopy, outside and forgot to shut-off the alarm.

But March 2 trip to Parker Ave. was different, much different.

“I knew in my heart something was terribly wrong, but I began praying to God to please let momma be all right,” Byrum said. “When my husband Mitch and I arrived at momma’s house, the police was there but there were no lights on in the house. We were met by an officer with the Ahoskie Police Department. I asked where was momma and he said she was inside. I asked if I could go see her and he replied that I could not.

“I never expected momma to be the victim of a gunshot wound…not my mother who had lived in the quiet little town of Ahoskie for 60 years,” she added. “Momma had been murdered in that home where I grew up and lived until I was married and where so many wonderful memories had been made by my family. How could this be?”

Byrum’s memory of her childhood included the life story of her parents, William and Ruby Baker who moved to Ahoskie in 1952 and two years later purchased a home at 802 Parker Ave. where they raised their three daughters and one son.

“Daddy and momma worked hard to provide for their children,” Byrum said. “We were taught their Christian values and beliefs, how to work for what you want, how to treat others with respect and they didn’t hesitate to discipline us when we did wrong.

“They were disappointed in how homes and buildings around town became increasingly dilapidated and in such disrepair over the years, but were still proud to call Ahoskie as home,” Byrum continued. “Momma always wished everyone would pitch in and help keep Ahoskie clean just as she tried to do on the street where she lived. I’m sure the employees at Town Hall still remember my mother constantly calling to request that the street sweeper please come sweep Parker Avenue.

“She always took time to pick up trash while she was taking her daily walks,” Byrum continued. “She went out every morning, weather permitting, and swept her sidewalk, curbing and driveway to ensure her property was neat and clean. And let’s not forget the News-Herald (located near the Baker home) and how she’d call them to let them know their paper was blowing everywhere and they needed to clean it up. She didn’t hesitate to let them know they needed to clean up their trash, but she always stopped by their office during her daily walks to say a quick hello to everyone and let the girls there get some love from Snoopy (Baker’s dog). That was my momma. She liked to keep things clean, and oh how she wished everyone else would do the same.”

Byrum said that following her father’s death in 2007, her mother insisted on living alone at the family home, stressing that she did not want to place any unnecessary burdens on her children.

“By that time there was only one other person still living on the street of the original neighbors who purchased a home on Parker Avenue back in the 1950s and 1960s,” Byrum recalled. “Already a widow, that neighbor and momma watched out for each other, always calling to see if the other was doing okay. That neighbor didn’t have any family locally, so we sometimes included her in our family gatherings. That’s not to say my mother didn’t associate with any of the other neighbors, but some of the houses were now rental houses and the tenants changed often. Momma was blessed with five wonderful neighbors who watched out for her, helped her and, I believe, truly loved her. One neighbor even offered to stay with her at night after my father passed. But once again, the independent woman momma was, she was determined to learn to stay by herself.”

Her children felt comfortable with their mother living alone, especially with an alarm system and the fact that Snoopy kept her company. Baker and her dog grew inseparable.

“Momma felt safe and comfortable staying in her home,” Byrum noted. “It was a home that provided so many happy memories for so many years. We celebrated holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, births, graduations and so much more. In that home our family continued to grow with six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

“There were so many happy memories in that home until March 2, 2014 when someone felt the need to break in momma’s house, shoot her and take things that did not belong to them,” Byrum added.

She stressed that despite the passage of two years, no arrests have been made.

“I honestly believe somebody somewhere knows something that could help make an arrest happen,” she said. “There’s a $5,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the one who committed this hideous crime.

“Please, please make known what you know. You can call the Ahoskie Police Department at 332-5011 or call State Bureau of Investigation’s hotline number at 336-209-5201 anonymously. Please help us find and convict whoever did this so it won’t happen again to someone else’s mother or grandmother,” Byrum said.

Like her sister, Byrum holds no hatred in her heart for the person responsible to ending her mother’s life.

“I feel sorry for them,” she stressed. “That person is somebody’s child and they could possibly have sisters and brothers just like me. I simply want to know why this had to happen.

“My mother was a Christian woman who loved her family, attended church every Sunday, read her Bible every day and got down on her knees by her bedside every night thanking God for her blessings, praying for her family and countless others and asking God for protection,” she added. “Momma was kind and loving to everyone she met and everyone loved her in return. I’ll never understand why someone felt the need to shoot a helpless little 85-year-old lady.

“My family will get answers one day. We may not get them until we see momma and daddy in heaven, but we will get them. Please help us make it happen sooner than later if you can,” Byrum concluded.

Perhaps someone will come forward with the information necessary to help serve justice on the person responsible in this murder as well as to allow the Baker family to have closure. Until that time, they will continue to gather at their mother’s grave and pray for each other as well as the individual that caused such emotional pain and suffering.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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