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Joy Baker dead at 64

WASHINGTON -- Joy Dirksen Baker, daughter of one Senate Republican leader and wife of another, has died at the age of 64, her husband's Washington law firm said Sunday.

Mrs. Baker, wife of former Sen. Howard Baker Jr., R-Tenn., died Saturday at the family home in Huntsville, Tenn., after an 11-year battle with cancer, the firm of Baker, Worthington.

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Mrs. Baker, who first contracted cancer in 1982, was admitted to East Tennessee Baptist Hospital in Knoxville last November and transferred to the Mayo Clinic in January before returning home to be with her family.

'When it was determined her illness was terminal, she decided she wanted to return to the family home in Huntsville rather than stay in a hospital,' said Ron McMahan, a longtime friend and a former aide to Howard Baker.

The former senator and their two children, Cynthia (Cissy) Baker and Darek Baker, were with her at the home.

Mrs. Baker, whose father was Sen. Edward Dirksen, R-Ill., longtime Senate GOP leader until his death in 1969, was graduated from Bradley University with a degree in history.

She met Howard Baker, then the son of a Tennessee congressman, at a wedding while working for her father on Capital Hill in 1951. They were married within three months.

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She served on the boards of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mount Vernon College, Bradley University, Knoxville College and the Knoxville Symphony Society.

She also served as a consultant to the State Department, redesigning U.S. embassies overseas. She was a founding member of the Everett McKinely Dirksen Center, a congressional research library dedicated by President Gerald Ford in her father's honor.

Howard Baker was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966 and became Republican leader in 1977. He made an unsuccessful bid for president in 1980 and retired from the Senate in 1984 to practice law. He was recalled to political duty as White House chief of staff in 1987-88 under President Ronald Reagan.

In addition to her husband and children, she is also survived by three grandchildren.

Funeral services will be in Huntsville, Tenn.

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