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Community gathers to help family recover

THURMAN Vern Bakers wife Amy stood in her yard Saturday, watching a dozen or so men work to clear up the remains of the garage that housed Verns vehicle-repair business and his beloved pastime. Just this past winter, half of the garage roof collapsed under the weight of accumulated wet snow, threatening vital family income, she recalled. He was absolutely crushed, Bakers wife Amy said. This business was Verns dream. A collapsed garage and dormant business werent Vern Bakers only setbacks this year. This August, Baker was diagnosed with stage III Squamous Cell Carcinoma at the age of 48. Saturday, more than 20 people, some neighbors on High St., others long-time customers hailing from other Northeastern states, dedicated their time and energy in tearing down the damaged roof and wall of the garage. Tons of roofing tin, trusses, cinder blocks and insulation were pulled from the tangled web of rubble, sorted and removed. This whole thing kind of reminds me of the Amish, Baker said with a laugh as he unloaded the bucket of his backhoe and reflected on the benefits of living in a tight-knit, caring community. This right here is why I wouldnt live anywhere else. This demolition day was the brainchild of the members of the Thurman Connections Snowmobile Club, of which Baker is a co-founder. We are here because it has to be done, long-time club member Russ Combs said. I guess Verns got a lot of friends. Many other volunteers simply heard about the gathering and decided to attend. We have to stick together up here, Randy Ross of Warrensburg said. I am sure my time will come. Vern Baker is a second generation snowmobile mechanic and parts supplier. Baker said his father built the structure 48 years prior. Lacking adequate insurance, the building sat in ruins through the summer while Baker amassed the necessary funding to rebuild the collapsed roof. Amy Baker said the roof collapse, followed by the cancer diagnosis, put a tremendous strain on her husband and her family. Vern Baker said he is currently undergoing alternative medical cancer treatment, which is focused on lifestyle modification, and herbal therapy. His treatments are administered in Long Island where he and his wife generally spend three days a week. The rest of his time is spent working at his business, which is still operational, he said. Amy Baker said she and her husband are incredibly humbled by and appreciative of the support and goodwill they are receiving from the community. She said these virtues are the reason people choose to live in small towns which often lack jobs with reasonable pay. She said the downstate clinicians caring for her husband are impressed by the public support Vern has received. Its the Adirondack lifestyle, Amy said as the Bakers next-door neighbors, Kent and Glenda Duell, hosted a lunch barbecue for everyone in attendance. You wont have to carry a burden alone. Michelle Prybylski of Danbury, Conn., is a longtime patron of Bakers Motor Sports & Garage. She and her husband Jim, who was on site Saturday carrying rubble, recently bought a home on Mud St. You would never see this in the city, Prybylski said. Jim added, The selflessness of the culture here is amazing. The next phase of reconstruction will soon follow, once again with the help of the collective. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser was held Saturday evening at the town hall. Furthermore, a Barn Bash dance and auction will be held Oct. 11 at the home of Roy and Jamie Ross on Glen-Athol Rd. with proceeds and donations going toward Bakers treatment. Honestly, I feel significantly better, Baker said. Its amazing how much work can get done with the help of your neighbors and friends.

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