Serving 26 years in the Air Force Sergeant Ralph Baker, better known as Skip, spent more than half of his life in the military.

He was a loadmaster on the C-130 Aircraft. Ironically, the aircrafts nickname was the workhorse.

After he was discharged skip came to Equicenter a therapeutic riding center.

“When somebody comes here they’re often recovering and healing from a very difficult deployment and that was the case with Skip,” said Dr. Susan Taylor-Brown.

Taylor-Brown says he was a man of few words, but his love for this place spoke volumes.

Co-founder of Equicenter Jonathon Friedlander and Skips mentor Lindsay Alberts would agree.

“Very soon after arriving he starting asking what more can he do out here and could spend more time, could he help repair things, could he help learn and care about the horses and so he did and soon he was out here just about every day of the week,” said Friedlander.

“He came right out of his shell and started thinking of this as his second family, he became very comfortable with all of us, and he would be here at 7 A.M. until 7 P.M. just helping out with whatever we needed,” said Alberts.

When he wasn’t repairing buildings, keeping the grounds, or riding his favorite horse Harley he was away on hiking trips.

Luanne VanPeursem another veteran at the Equicenter who was also stationed at the same base as Skip says hiking was something they talked about frequently.         

 “He would come with maps and say oh look at this trail that I just did and if you go here and it would be very helpful and encouraging to continue that,” said VanPerusem.

She says he was a seasoned climber which is why his passing is such a shock to everyone at the center.

“The Equicenter family is clearly going to struggle with this, he was a real part of it so it’s a shock and I think everybody is used to him showing up and it hard to imagine he’s not going to be coming back,” said Friedlander.

Co-founder Friedlander says Skip was the reason the program started at the center and because of him twenty percent of the participants are now veterans.

Skip did write a letter of gratitude before he passed you can find that letter by clicking here.