MADISON—Frank B. Baker died on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, just days before his 91st birthday. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, JoAnn; a daughter, Ann Marie; a son, Christopher (Odette); and two granddaughters, Hannah and Oona.
In the later days of World War II, he was in the U.S. Navy’s V-5 pilot training program. In the Korean War, he flew 50 combat missions as a U.S. Air Force navigator in B-26 aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
He earned a B.S. degree in 1950, an M.S. in 1954, and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Statistics in 1959. All three degrees were from the University of Minnesota. In 1962, he joined the UW-Madison faculty in the Department of Educational Psychology, retiring in 1998.
Professor Baker was an early researcher in the modern psycho metric theory known as Item Response Theory. He published over one hundred peer reviewed articles and three books dealing with this theory and related statistical topics.
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He was a life-long designer and builder of model airplanes. He published numerous articles about constructing radio-controlled scale models of military aircraft in magazines such as Model Aviation. He was a founding member of the Madison Area Radio Control Club and served a term as its president. The club awarded him a plaque for his 50 years of service to the club. In 2015, he was inducted into the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ Hall of Fame. His 2006 B-24 is in the National Model Aviation Museum in Muncie, Ind.
In 1969, he restored a badly damaged Piper Cub airplane to like new condition. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in this airplane. He flew the Cub some 3,500 hours most of it on cross-country flights throughout the continental United States. His many adventures in the Cub were recounted in the book “Piper Cub Tales” that was published in 2004. He was a long time member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Midwest Antique Airplane Club and the Antique Airplane Association.
Upon retiring from the University, he joined the Devils Head Ski Patrol and served on the Friday crew for 16 years.
A devoted father and husband, he took his family on many vacations to National Parks and downhill skiing out west. For several years, he kept a wooden X-Class sloop for sailing on Lake Mendota. He and his wife traveled widely in Europe. In Norway, they visited JoAnn’s relatives who lived in Roldal. On one European trip, he went with a German friend who had a Piper Cub and they flew along the Berlin Wall before it was torn down.
He was a great guy and will be missed by family and friends.
Private memorial services will be held at a later date in Minnesota.