Elinor Shutts Baker, who wrote for The Toledo Blade about society, music and interior design and was the daughter of an early Miami Herald publisher, died of a stroke Sept. 1 in Noreen McKeen Residence in West Palm Beach. She was 93.
Baker had multiple health problems in recent years, said her son, Bernard R. “Robin” Baker III.
Her husband, Bernard, was president and chairman of the landmark menswear retailer, the B.R. Baker Co., who became a lawyer and was corporate secretary of The Blade from 1962-90.
“Ellie Baker, who was my godmother, and whom I remember from earliest infancy, was a truly elegant lady,” said John Robinson Block, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade. “Toledo was fortunate to have her for five decades, and she will be missed.”
Baker grew up in newspapers. She was born July 7, 1919, in Miami to Agnes and Frank Shutts. Her father nine years earlier became publisher of The Miami Herald and, eventually, was its owner. He also founded the law firm Shutts & Bowen.
“Frank Shutts was obviously quite a powerful figure and a big risk taker,” her son said. “You don’t leave Aurora, Ind., in 1910” — where he was a lawyer — “and move to Miami, Florida, where they had dirt streets and wooden sidewalks without being a hell of a gambler.”
As publisher of The Herald, “everyone stopped by to pay homage to Frank Shutts,” her son said.
In September, 2002, Baker reminisced in an article she wrote for the Herald’s centennial special issue.
“I loved playing on our front lawn,” she wrote. “Sightseeing boats went by during the winter, and I was proud when I heard the guides shouting into megaphones, ‘This is the home of Frank B. Shutts, owner and publisher of The Miami Herald, Florida’s most important newspaper.’”
Among the important people who stopped by the house seeking Shutts’ support was Warren G. Harding. Baker wrote that President Harding was on the front porch with her parents when she, age 4, came running out of the house, distressed by her broken toy.
“President Harding took the toy and was starting to fix it when an aide knocked on the screen door. ‘Mr. President, your train is ready,’ he said. To which the President snapped, ‘It’s not ready until I am, is it?’ and went ahead and fixed the toy,” Baker wrote.
Her father sold the newspaper to John S. and James L. Knight in 1937.
Baker also was related by marriage to the Reno family, including former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Both the Shutts and the Reno families grew up in old South Florida, a period before WWII which boasted stately homes, undeveloped land, and vintage attractions.
Baker was a graduate of the Masters School, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and of Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
In New York City, she studied voice and attended the Juilliard School.
She met her husband back in Miami, where he was stationed as an officer in the Navy during World War II.
Afterward, the couple returned to his hometown. For years, the Baker family lived on East River Road in Perrysburg.
“She was very outgoing, and she made a lot of friends, and they made a great life together in Perrysburg,” their son said.
Elinor and Bernard Baker, often pictured in evening wear, appeared regularly in society and arts coverage of The Toledo Blade. A classically trained lyric soprano, she was a force in the founding of the Toledo Opera Guild, of which she was the first president beginning in 1962, and was on the Toledo Symphony board.