You could always count on Raymond Baur II for a colorful story and an earnest smile.
The retired Miami businessman, who died Aug. 31, after a brief illness in Harrisonburg, Virginia, at 85, had traveled the world while in the military and those memories stuck with him. Friends and family say he talked fondly of his days abroad and often pulled out a world map for his grandchildren to illustrate where he was.
“He was a brilliant and fascinating man,” said his son, Raymond Baur III, 52. “Very worldly, but also a great conversationalist and always up for a chat.”
A longtime Miami resident, Baur was born April 4, 1931, in Annapolis, Maryland, to Ray Baur and Helina Baur, moving to Miami in 1939 and graduating from Miami Beach High School in 1949.
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A long admirer of everything scientific and tech oriented, Baur attended Duke University and graduated in 1954 with a degree in engineering. Baur soon went into the service, serving two stints in the Navy and the Air Force and one tour on the Battleship Missouri. He was stationed in Turkey, Libya and Greece when in the Air Force.
After an honorable discharge in 1960, Baur moved to Cocoa Beach, working with the Chrysler Corporation as a NASA engineer on Project Mercury, America’s first human spaceflight program.
In 1967, he moved to Islamorada with his wife of five years, the late Fran Woods, and two young sons to take over the Chesapeake seafood restaurant, which he owned and operated until 1979. Baur’s father ran a successful chain of New England Oyster House restaurants throughout Florida, and the daily operations came naturally to his son. Patrons recall Baur’s attention to detail, friendly demeanor with guests and the fair way he treated his staff.
After selling the restaurant, Baur moved back to South Miami, and became heavily involved in soccer. He eventually served as president of the Cutler Ridge Soccer Club and also coached the girls’ soccer team at Palmer Trinity High School from 1980-87. From 1992-2003, Baur coached JV boys’ soccer at Christopher Columbus High School. He also worked under Herb Dunning at Miami Dade South.
In 1994, Baur, who frequently visited Nicaragua for both business and pleasure, founded Nicamaka Distributors, selling hammocks made from fabrics from that country. He himself made up the name of the company — a mix of the words “Nicaraguan” and hammock in Spanish (“hamaca”).
The store — until 2012 when it moved exclusively online — was located in the mall of the Grand Condo, where he also resided, and the handsome, gregarious shopkeeper was known to invite in potential shoppers to take a load off and sit for a spell in one of the swinging floor models.
“He was very friendly, very social. He loved having the showroom so that he could chat with people,” said his older son Raymond, who still maintains Nicamaka with his brother Craig, 49.
Though a social creature, Baur also pursued solo activities. A passionate and prolific artist, he often painted large murals and detail oriented portraits. Baur’s pieces hung in the store, but for art’s sake not commerce; he was far too humble to sell them.
If not in the store, you could often find Baur talking to neighbors and grabbing a glass of wine at the condo’s Primo’s restaurant, where he regaled locals with tales of his fascinating past and present. If he had a napkin and a pencil handy, he might even do a sketch, usually of a beautiful woman.
After suffering a stroke, Baur retired in 2012 to the Shenandoah Valley to live with son Craig and his family. Though weaker physically, he was still full of life, visiting local restaurants in Harrisonburg, and making friends wherever he went, just by asking where they were from. He also built an art studio in his apartment, where he was surrounded by his easel, paints and brushes.
Perhaps Baur will best be remembered as his role of devoted grandfather to Gunnar, 10, Isla, 8, Scarlett, 8, and Morgan, 6. He made every attempt to attend the grandchildren’s major games, tournaments or activities. One of his greatest loves was patiently giving them art classes.
But his greatest love was likely Miami.
Against the advice of the medical community, he would often impulsively make the 18-hour trek south from Virginia, driving straight through, stopping only at his favorite roadside restaurant, Cracker Barrel.
When he arrived at his old home of the Grand, where his son and his family still resided, Baur looked tired but happy.
“One of the first things he would do when he got to town was get a Cuban coffee and a pastelito,” said son Raymond. “The Miami lifestyle was in his blood.”
Baur is also survived by his sister Gloria and her three children; services are pending.