Norma Jene (Hill) Baker
Dec 27, 2018 12:27PM
By Norma Jene Baker
Norma Jene (Hill) Baker, 85
I am originally a Texan. I was born in Texas, although my family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, just before my sixth birthday. I paid my own way through business school, earning an executive secretarial certificate in 1951. My first job was as a secretary to two orthopedic surgeons. I was later hired as secretary to the assistant chief engineer at United Gas Pipeline Co.
I met Billy Baker in 1956, and we were married the following December. Billy was working toward his doctorate in agriculture at LSU. Because of a United Gas policy on marriage, I was required to resign.
In 1966, we were transferred to Hong Kong, where Billy worked all of Southeast Asia for Eli Lily and Co. We lived in Hong Kong for three years. I raised three young children and attended Hong Kong University to study Spanish. (Yes, that’s right. There was no way I could tackle trying to speak Mandarin.) As a member of the International Women’s Association, I also learned to type in Braille, and translated books written in English into Braille. Living in Hong Kong was a fantastic experience. We had full-time live-in help, which spoiled me for life.
We returned to the U.S. in 1969, settling in Indianapolis, where I soon met a neighbor who taught art classes in her home. She invited me to join the group, which was the beginning of a nine-year friendship and art-learning experience. I preferred painting African animals and my versions of antique Asian paintings on silk—although I painted in watercolor.
In 1979 we moved to Omaha, where Billy worked for Elanco. At this time our kids were a college freshman, a high school senior, and an eighth-grade student.
I opened Nebraska’s first sun-tanning salon. It became the largest tanning salon in the state, and we operated it for 20 years before selling it in 1999.
In 1987, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. I endured a year of surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and 61 radiation treatments, but the cancer left. It returned in 1998. I received several more treatments and was under the care of fantastic doctors. I have been cancer-free now for nearly 20 years.
These days, we continue to travel between our residences in Omaha and Hilton Head, South Carolina, which is good for our physical and mental well-being.
This article first appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of 60PLUS in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.