A Legacy of Love: Anita Gamble Baker, Class of 1970

Jennifer A. Turner
July 21, 2022
Anita Baker
Anita Gamble Baker

With a natural affinity for nursing, Anita Baker ’70 spent a lifetime compassionately caring for others. Now her legacy lives on through her alma mater’s training of the next generation of nurses in palliative care.

As Laurin Baker loves to recall, when his wife Anita Baker smiled, her entire face lit up, and her eyes—they simply sparkled. As the saying goes, the eyes are the windows into the soul, and for Laurin, Anita’s kindness was what always shone through. That was her hallmark; naturally compassionate, she enjoyed caring for others and looking to meet their needs. It surprised no one that, from a young age, she wanted to become a nurse.

Although Laurin and Anita had grown up in the same social circles near Turbeville, South Carolina, it wasn’t until a fateful birthday party when they were both 14 that he shared a spark with the beautiful green-eyed girl across the room. Dating throughout high school, they parted in 1966 when she followed her dream and was accepted into the first BSN class at MUSC’s College of Nursing. Undeterred, Laurin traveled—first from the University of South Carolina where he was a student and then as a U.S. Army soldier from Fort Bragg—to compete for her time amid her full load of courses and clinical rotations. That was a tall order, as Laurin was fully aware that Anita loved everything about becoming a nurse and had immersed herself in her studies.

The couple eventually became engaged at their favorite spot on Colonial Lake and squeezed in a wedding the fall of her senior year, just before Laurin had to return to base. After Anita’s graduation in May 1970, she joined Laurin in Germany, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army. Despite having no experience, she quickly found her first job as a nurse at the Army hospital in Nuremberg. Anita had scored so well on the Nursing Boards that she was automatically eligible for a nursing license in any state, an offer that extended to U.S. military bases. A year later, they settled in Columbia, S.C. Working at the city’s Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, Anita was tasked with setting up the first dialysis program in the state, a daunting task that she tackled head-on by undertaking additional training and coordinating with the VA to purchase the right equipment. This pattern would repeat itself many times during her fiftyplus years in the nursing profession, as Anita’s drive to support her patients led her to launch new programs or services and innovatively adapt her training and experiences to best meet their needs.

For the Bakers, married life was filled with love and adventure as they moved throughout the United States with their two children, Jennifer and William. At each subsequent location, Anita grew in her abilities as a director and embraced serving at what was often the forefront of nursing. In addition to directing the Georgetown County Mental Health Center in South Carolina, she started and managed a Baton Rouge skilled nursing care facility within St. James Place, one of the first continuing care retirement communities in the South. Afterward, she excelled as director of nursing at a full-service retirement community in Illinois and developed and managed caregiver education programs for the Alzheimer's Association in Illinois and Virginia. Through these meaningful experiences of working with seniors suffering from declining health, Anita discovered a deep love for their care and advocacy.

Moved by the medical struggles seniors inevitably encounter, especially when seriously ill, Anita came to view directing their care and well-being as her calling. When she and Laurin relocated to Virginia, she worked to become a nationally certified Aging Life Care Professional® also known as a geriatric care manager, and began consulting with seniors and their families. With her innate empathy and intuition, she was the perfect person to oversee their coordination of care. In 2014, the Bakers returned to their home state and settled on Pawleys Island. With no interest in retiring, Anita started AGB and Associates, the area’s first professional geriatric care management company, which continues to serve clients in Georgetown and Horry counties. Fulfilling her calling by helping seniors in their time of need, Anita took great joy in her work, which she remained involved in until her passing last year after a brief but courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. To honor his beloved wife and her lifetime of service as a nurse, particularly her work with seniors and in palliative care, Laurin dedicated a gift in Anita’s name to the College of Nursing, the place where he witnessed her career first take shape. Designated to enrich the college’s palliative care initiative, his gesture is a fitting legacy for a woman whose innovation and compassion will continue to inspire many.