Diane Baker carried a deep love for her family and expressed it in part by making pineapple upside down and tres leches cakes for family gatherings. It was something she enjoyed so much, her family joked, it was why she married a man with the last name Baker.
Baker, of Patchogue, died of the coronavirus at Long Island Community Hospital in the village on April 17 following three weeks on a ventilator at the start of the pandemic. She was 53.
She was born Diane McParland on Jan. 15, 1967 at what was then St. John’s Smithtown Hospital to parents Mary Grace and Vincent McParland. She grew up in Lake Grove and graduated from Sachem High School North and married her husband, John Baker, on June 1, 2002.
Her family noted that Baker suffered from an underlying condition, a dissected aorta, and was not able to work in recent years. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition is serious and occurs when the inner layer of the aorta tears.
Baker had many interests and hobbies, her family said, especially caring for her cats and any other neighborhood strays that would come to her door hoping to benefit from her kindness.
It was always family first and Baker and her husband would host their loved ones every Christmas. Without his wife there this past December, John Baker opted to decorate and host a few family members anyway. Maintaining tradition was what she would have wanted, her family said.
"It was hard, but I love that he wanted us there," said John’s older brother, Paul Baker of Patchogue. "And I love that he bought us all gifts. He wanted Christmas to be nice for everyone."
Diane Baker enjoyed swimming and gardening, every year planting red, white and purple flowers that would bloom into a patriotic display. She loved music and would sing Patsy Cline’s "Crazy" when karaoke was available.
A niece, Kelly Dabe of Islip, remembered Baker as the cool aunt who taught her how to apply makeup, introduced her to musicals like "Grease" and "West Side Story," and turned her on to rock music by The Doors and The Kinks. Just 13 years apart, Dabe cherished their time together and said she considered Baker more like a big sister than an aunt.
"It was always just such an experience to hang out with her because she had a song in her heart and would share it with us," said Dabe, who served as maid of honor at Baker's wedding. "She was a beautiful, beautiful person."
Baker was buried at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale on April 23. A memorial service was held Sept. 12 at Assumption of the Blessed Mary Roman Catholic Church in Centereach. She is survived by her mother, Mary Grace McParland of Lake Grove, brothers Vincent McParland of Long Beach and Timothy McParland of Lake Grove, a sister Susan Catik of Melville and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her sister Karen Breslin.