A long-time friend and member of the AOL family, Paul Francis Baker, was laid to rest yesterday in Northern Virginia. To the many people that knew Paul, we will remember him for his larger-than-life persona, his infectious smile, his brilliant story-telling, his love of the Oakland Raiders, his drive and intelligence, and his love of his family – he loved being “Uncle Paul” to his many nieces and nephews.
Paul and I graduated from the same high school – WT Woodson in Fairfax. I only went there for my junior and senior years – and I didn’t know Paul well in high school but we became good friends during our days at AOL in the mid 90’s to early 00’s. I’ll always have fond memories of working together to help build AOL into a powerhouse, the joyous times we had during Super Bowl Weekends as well as the many social functions that the AOL’ers attended together.
The memorial service was held on Friday evening in Fairfax; then a Catholic Mass was held on Saturday morning in Clifton to celebrate Paul’s life.
One of the things that stood out is the large group of people that came on both days. It showed the impact that Paul had on so many people — family, friends and co-workers. Friends flew in from all over the U.S. to pay respect to Paul and his family.
I know Paul would have been so proud to have so many members of the AOL family show up to honor him. So many key employees that helped turn AOL into a major global media brand in the 90’s were there on Friday and Saturday. It was great to see the old gang – although it was tough to see each other during such a difficult and unfortunate time. I know Paul would have teared up seeing so many of his old AOL teammates there — having Steve and Jean Case and Ted Leonsis there would have meant so much to him. So many of his hard-working and loving friends from AOL gathered to pay tribute to our Paulie. Yes, we have all left AOL … and, it’s been a long time in seeing many of the old gang … but, it shows that AOL was and will always be family.
We are in talks about creating a scholarship in Paul’s name. Many of the AOL family members have already noted that they would like to get involved. Ho Shin, John Gardiner and I will reach out after we’ve had time to discuss the creation of this memorial fund.
As this weekend showed, it’s important to let your family and friends know how much you love and care about them. There were a lot of hugs and tears the past two days.
Rest in peace, Paulie. We already miss you.