Stella's Serenity Garden Open House Ribbon Cutting

July 01, 2019

Pinckneyville Community Hospital partnered with the Pinckneyville Chamber of Commerce to hold an open house and ribbon-cutting for Stella's Serenity Garden, in memory of Stella M. Baker, by Dr. Allen Y. Baker. The Bakers' daughter, Debbie Baker-Arett, was present at the ribbon-cutting on behalf of the family.

During a visit to Pinckneyville back in the spring of 2017, Dr. Allen Baker, who operated a successful optometric practice in Pinckneyville, toured the new Pinckneyville Community Hospital. A former member of the Hospital Board of Directors, Dr. Baker said he was pleased with the new facility.

"In conversation, it was mentioned to Dr. Baker that we were hoping to build a flower garden for patient, family and employee use in the near future," says Randall W. Dauby, Chief Executive Officer of Pinckneyville Community Hospital. "The next day, Dr. Baker returned to the hospital during our annual health fair, and pulled me aside to tell me that he wanted to help fund the garden in memory of his late wife, Stella."

The hospital contracted with Creative Scapes out of DuQuoin to design and plant the space. Stella's Serenity Garden is the home to a water feature, boulder garden, many butterfly bushes, teak seating options, cedar pergola and of course, Stella Day Lilly's.

During the ribbon cutting, Arett recounted a humorous story of how her family ended up in Pinckneyville. After World War II, her father an Army Veteran was hitchhiking from Vandalia to Cairo, where he planned to open practice. His ride dropped him in Pinckneyville, where he spent a few days walking around and getting to know the people. He was staying at the Sherman, where the landlord (among many) convinced him to stay in Pinckneyville and open a practice there. She even offered him a place in her hotel to set up his office, by evicting the barber who was renting her front room, "because the hair made too much of a mess."

After more than 40 years in Pinckneyville, the couple retired to Clearwater, FL. Mrs. Baker passed away May 13, 2012, after a bout with cancer.

During their time in Pinckneyville, the Bakers were active in a multitude of community service activities, while rearing two children, Debbie and Allen, Jr.

Stella Baker helped organize the Perry County Fair queen contest for many years, served with the PTA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Delta Theta Tau philanthropic sorority. After her children were grown, she worked at Dr. Baker's optometric office.

In addition to his service on the hospital board, Dr. Baker was a Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts. He was chairman of the Chamber of Commerce industrial committee that brought three factories and hundreds of jobs to Pinckneyville. He served on the Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission for more than 25 years.

He was a founding member of the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees and served there for many years, after which the Bakers endowed a fund that provides a four-year full-tuition scholarship for two graduates of Pinckneyville High School each year. The administration building at the college bears his name in recognition of his long service there.

At the state level, Dr. Baker served on the Illinois State Scholarship Commission, the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, and the Illinois Optometric Association, always working for the interests of the people of downstate Illinois.