A lot of times, most of us go to bed thinking about our jobs and wake up thinking about our jobs. That is what having a career these days entails. However, how many of us go to bed and wake up thinking about our industry? How many of us give a lot of thought to what we can do to better the industry we work in even though there might not be a direct correlation to improving our individual business’s bottom line?
I know I don’t. But D. Brian Baker, the second-generation owner of Custom Vac Ltd. in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, did just that.
I am saddened to report that Baker passed away from cancer in early January.
Baker, a long-time NEWS Advisory Board member, was a valuable member of the HVAC industry. He was someone who truly tried to make the industry better. I know this because I was often on the receiving ends of his advice. The NEWS would frequently receive emails or phone calls from Brian bringing up a subject we had not yet written about or perhaps suggesting we look at a specific issue in a different way. He was not doing this to grow his business or get more attention; he simply wanted the HVACR industry to be the best it could be.
In late October, doctors told Baker that the fight to rid him of cancer was unsuccessful and gave the contractor three to six months to live. You would think that would knock the passion for the HVACR industry out of Baker. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The NEWS got a call on Christmas Eve from our Canadian friend giving feedback on an article we had run about getting more females into the industry.
His friend Joseph Kokinda of Professional HVACR Services Inc. in Avon Lake, Ohio, visited him in late November.
“There wasn’t much time for small talk, as we strategized on content for a radio talk show on IAQ Radio that was to happen in late December,” Kokinda said. “Working through the pain of his disease was so evident to me that it broke my heart. He worked literally till the end. His willingness to answer any and all questions that would come his way relative to our industry with a well-thought-out answer was a special quality that he sustained. Brian never tired of learning and teaching.”
When he was 7, Brian got his start in the industry in the passenger seat of his dad’s pickup truck, joining with him as he drove from job site to job site. At age 11, he was cleaning oil furnaces. After that, there was no turning back, as the number of licenses, memberships, and certifications that Baker held were enough to impress even the most seasoned industry veterans. He was an HVACR lifer in every sense of the phrase.
I, for one, am saddened that my phone will never ring again with Baker on the other end helping me through an industry issue or raising one that I had not yet heard about. I know I am not alone in that view.
“Constantly writing to The NEWS and other similar entities, including social media, his comments on posts, stories, and pictures on HVACR content and how we are being portrayed was one of his ‘duties,’” Kokinda said. “He was a watchdog for all of us, making sure we were ‘all in’ with what we were attempting to do by giving us his opinion. He was so sure that his opinion needed to be heard, he would give it solicited or not. He was the epitome of passion. No efforts half-heartedly done would do for Brian. Mediocrity was not acceptable. Proud he was,” Kokinda said.
While we can never replace Brian Baker, what we can do is have him serve as an inspiration and follow his lead.
Publication date: 1/30/2017