From a tiny basement studio on Bell Road in Halifax, Libbie Baker, a pioneer of Nova Scotian television talk shows, hosted Look in on Libbie for a seven-year run starting in 1960. The low-budget women's show, seen every weekday afternoon, ranged from interviews with celebrities, such as the Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers and American astronaut Pete Conrad, to daily birth announcements, recipes, home hints and the departure and arrival dates of Royal Canadian Navy ships.
Described as a tall, dark, vivacious host, Ms. Baker, who died in Toronto on Nov. 3 at the age of 87, co-hosted the 30-minute program on CBC Television in Halifax with Jim Bennet, who also appeared on the popular TV show Singalong Jubilee.
"She had a lovely voice," Mr. Bennet recalled. "She had a nice, casual style."
Offering women a wide variety of topics and interests, the Look in on Libbie show also included live music segments and a series entitled So Grows the Child, for which Ms. Baker invited doctors into the studio to discuss issues important to mothers.
During that time, Ms. Baker also became the face of Halifax on CBC nationally, appearing as a guest panelist on programs such as Front Page Challenge and the quiz show Live a Borrowed Life. In addition, she hosted coverage of popular events such as the Queen's Plate, the country's oldest thoroughbred horse race, and the opening of Expo 67 in Montreal. But it was her interest in the Apollo space program, designed to land humans on the moon and return them safely to Earth, that garnered her the most attention. Her interest in space exploration led to her to become Canada's media expert on the Apollo program.
For a time, she was dubbed "Libbie the Lunar Lady."
In the 1960s, Ms. Baker was one of the first two women to do a simulated moon landing at the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. plant in Bethpage, N.Y. – the same training facility astronauts used to prepare for a real moon landing.
Ms. Baker crashed during her first attempted landing in the Lunar Excursion Module, which weighed close to 14 tonnes and was six metres high. But she was successful on her second attempt. At the training facility, she also drove a vehicle used to simulate travel over the surface of the moon. "I was doing quite well at this," Ms. Baker told reporter Cyril Robinson of her experience, "when one of the spokes [designed to combat gravity conditions] snapped. You might say I was the first woman to have a flat tire on the moon."
When asked if she would ever really consider going to the moon, she replied: "I'd be frightened. But I would go."
"She was totally fascinated by it [space]," her daughter Lisa Boyce says. "She loved the exploration. She loved the learning."
Outside of work, Ms. Baker pursued her interest in flight by getting her private pilot's licence.
Born in Montreal in 1927, Elizabeth Jane Kennedy, best known as Libbie, was the youngest of two children. Her brother, John, was 13 years her senior, which made her feel like an only child growing up.
She was a creative girl and her interest in acting, singing and playing piano blossomed while at Montreal High School. She got involved with the school's theatre program and performed in a production of Pride and Prejudice opposite classmate Christopher Plummer, who would go on to become an Academy Award-winning actor.
In 1949, she married Paul Christensen and three years later they moved to Halifax, where Mr. Christensen was stationed with the Royal Canadian Navy. In Halifax, Ms. Baker continued acting with community theatre groups such as the Shearwater Players, and also sang with the Royal Canadian Navy dance band.
One night in March, 1955, she discovered she was suffering from osteomyelitis, an infection in a bone, three hours before she was to appear in a musical production with the Shearwater Players. As the featured vocalist, she didn't want to cancel the show and disappoint everyone. The show went on with her having to be carried on and off the stage.
Friendly and gracious, she found people fascinating and had a natural way with them. But she also had high expectations, both for herself and others. "If you didn't fulfill them [her expectations] she let you know she wasn't happy," Ms. Boyce said.
Ms. Baker's first marriage ended. After separating from her husband, she moved with her two daughters to Toronto in 1967. Disappointed that her television career didn't take off in the way she had imagined, Ms. Baker joined the public relations department at the T. Eaton Co. She continued to have a small spot in television as a panelist on a news show.
Ms. Baker furthered her education and got her certification in public relations. Throughout the 1970s, she taught public relations at Humber College in Toronto. While working at Eaton's, she met Robert Baker, a department store executive with Simpson's. The couple married in 1972 and in retirement spent years travelling and golfing together until Ms. Baker was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003.
Ms. Baker leaves her husband, Robert; daughters Lisa and Lianne; stepsons Guy and Scott; three grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
"She met everyone, everywhere and stayed friends with them. People liked her," Ms. Boyce said.
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