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Often, the phrase cerebral palsy is associated unfairly with the inability to work. It’s a common misconception that a 66-year-old Northfield, Minnesota man has proven to be anything but true.
Northfield News reports that Bob Baker, born with cerebral palsy, just celebrated his 30th year working for McDonald’s. While it may not be the ideal job for some people, it’s something that Baker is so happy about that he wanted to share his story with others.
Baker’s journey as a McDonald’s worker began in 1986 when he showed up to the restaurant with a business card that his mother helped him create. Former owner of Northfield McDonald’s, Jerry Heinen, asked Baker to fill out an application, and within a day, he was hired. Despite only having one hand that functions, Baker was assigned to the maintenance crew, and surprisingly, did extremely well, given his disabilities.
After proving himself by walking to work everyday, including during cold winter weather, Baker was promoted to crew trainer, and within three years of employment at McDonald’s, moved up to manager. Throughout this time, he had both his mother and father by his side, encouraging him. Sadly, they both passed away shortly after his promotion to manager, leaving him completely on his own.
Determined to keep his job, Baker continued to work with no family assistance. His three sisters lived in different areas, but they did their best to look after him, and give as much long-distance help as possible. He thrived while living independently, and his career at McDonald’s continued to soar.
Eventually, a caretaker named Mary Ann Polley was hired in 2004 to help Baker with his day-to-day life skills. Although she works with a number of people with disabilities, she’s now been with Baker over a decade, and is amazed by how well he handles his tasks while living with a form of cerebral palsy that affects the entire left side of his body.
“It’s wonderful to see. He’s done such a terrific job living independently.”
As he grew older, Baker resigned as manager and cut down on hours, now working the drive-thru window. The restaurant has many regular morning customers, and they’re always happy to see Baker and his smiling face while handing them their items. One particular customer, who recently stopped back at the restaurant after being gone for a while, couldn’t believe that Baker was still there. Baker admitted that it made him feel old, but it also made him feel good when the customer told him he used to see him often during childhood.
“I don’t even know how many managers and employees I’ve been through. Someone in the drive-thru said to me ‘you’re still here? You remind me of my childhood.’ That makes me feel old. But also good.”
When he’s not working at McDonald’s, Baker is out and about, spending time in the community, where he’s recognized almost daily. He’s a regular member of the St. Peter’s Lutheran, an active participant at the Northfield Senior Center, and a singer for the Northfield Troubadours. Baker said that a little girl felt he was so popular in the community that she told him he should run for mayor, something he chuckles about.
A little girl said to me once ‘you should be the mayor of Northfield, because you know everybody. I said ‘no, everyone knows me.'”