‘Incredibly brave’ Sidmouth sportsman Nick quietly battled cancer
PUBLISHED: 19:28 12 August 2016 | UPDATED: 09:34 15 August 2016
Friends and family of a Sidmouth sportsman have remembered him as a ‘witty and determined’ individual who was ‘liked by all’.
Nick Baker relished a challenge and was admired by those who knew him for being able to ‘turn his hand’ to any sporting activity, including football, rugby, golf, cycling, triathlon and three London Marathons.
The 43-year-old died on August 1, following a brief battle with cancer.
His parents, Michael and Priscilla, paid tribute to their only son in the ‘incredibly brave’ way he handled his illness, following his diagnosis.
The couple said Nick did not want it to be made widely known that he was so ill.
Mrs Baker said: “Whatever he wanted to do, he did with enthusiasm. He wasn’t materialistic, but very determined. If he decided to go for something, that was that.”
“His be all and end all was sport and the challenges involved.”
Two weeks before his diagnosis, Nick completed the 100-mile Dragon Cycle Race in Wales.
Mr Baker said: “That is what hit us hard. When someone is so fit and active and gets struck down, it makes it even more tragic.”
“His friends have been very supportive, both to Nick and to us, and for that we are very grateful because it must have been difficult for them, too.”
Mrs Baker said: “He was very stoic. If he had an injury, it was just ‘oh well’. He never ever complained. He was incredibly brave.”
Nick’s love of sport began as soon as he could kick a ball. At the age of 15, he was in the Exeter and East Devon Schools representative team, which reached the semi-finals of the English Schools Football Competition.
One of his biggest sporting achievements came as captain of Sidmouth Rugby Club when they reached the semi-final of the Powergen Junior Vase in 2005. The team was just eight minutes away from playing at Twickenham in the final, but were beaten by an injury time try.
Derek Marchant, president of Sidmouth Rugby Club, said: “He was a very good captain and liked by all. It’s very sad that someone of that age has passed on. He led by example and he was a real club man.”
Growing up in Sidford, Nick attended the local playgroup, All Saints’ Primary School, St Nicholas’ Junior School and Sidmouth College. It was during that time that he met five other boys who he would stay friends with for his whole life.
Among that group of friends was Steve Lavers, who remembered Nick as a big supporter of Sidmouth traditions, including hot cross bun day as a child. He also enjoyed FolkWeek, Sidmouth Regatta and watching the Boxing Day Swim.
Steve said: “I do not remember him ever bragging about anything. He had a lot to show off about academically and sportwise. He read a lot and he had a good memory, but he never ever showed off.”
Last year, Nick was part of a triumphant Sid Valley Cyclo-Paths team, which helped raise £13,000 for Dream-A-Way by cycling 900 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
The compliance and operations manager also cycled 300 miles from Paris to Yeovil in a charity ride organised by his employer, Old Mill Group of Exeter.
A funeral service and celebration of his life will take place at St Peter’s Church, Sidford, on Tuesday, August 16, at 1.15pm. Family flowers only, but donations can be made, via Northcott Brothers, 68 Temple Street, Sidmouth, EX10 9BJ, for Marie Curie and Sidmouth Hospiscare.
Nick is survived by parents Michael and Priscilla, sisters Victoria and Kate and twin nieces Scarlett and Lily.