WELLS – Mathew Baker, chief deputy of the York County Sheriff’s Office, died Monday night, leaving a void that his family and colleagues in law enforcement say will be impossible to fill.
Baker, a former police chief in Kennebunk, was remembered Tuesday as a bright man who took his job seriously and was always willing to help others.
He died after the aggressive bladder cancer he had battled previously returned unexpectedly. He was 55.
“It’s a loss for everyone in the communities he served,” said Kennebunk Police Chief Robert MacKenzie.
Baker began his career with the Kennebunk Police Department in July 1978 as a reserve patrol officer. He was hired as a full-time officer a year later, worked his way up through the ranks and became chief in 2001.
He became chief deputy of the York County Sheriff’s Office in 2006.
Sheriff Maurice Ouellette said he chose Baker to be second in command because he had always been impressed with his professionalism.
“It was an honor and a pleasure to have known him and have worked with him. I had a lot of respect for him,” Ouellette said.
Baker is survived by his wife, Tigg Frieh, and son, Jason Baker.
Frieh, a sergeant with the Wells Police Department, said her husband of seven years took his illness seriously but was never morose about his diagnosis. Baker, a history buff and a music lover, was a keen observer of life and people, she said.
“There was something he exuded that was so comforting and solid and good that people were drawn to him,” she said. “He was a great man.”
MacKenzie, who first met Baker in the late 1980s, said Baker was a good leader who enjoyed his job and “wore his uniform well.”
“Many of us here who knew him are still in shock mode,” he said. “He’ll be missed in the law enforcement community and personally by people who knew him.”
Wells Police Chief Jo-Ann Putnam described Baker as a down-to-earth guy who was a good learning resource for officers.
“He was a big guy, but a gentle giant type of guy,” she said. “He was a guy you could always call and he’d help you out.”
Baker used his experience to assist with reviews of police department budgets as part of the Wells Budget Review Committee, said Leo Ouellette, the town’s treasurer.
Baker served on the committee for the past three years and took it upon himself to explain police department operations to the committee, Ouellette said.
“He brought a common sense approach (to the committee),” he said. “He was always thoughtful before he made a comment, but it was always the right comment when he made it.”
Despite his accomplishments in law enforcement, Frieh said, her husband’s greatest achievement in life was raising his son.
“The number one thing he was most proud of and most happy about in his life was his son,” she said.
Jason Baker described his father as his best friend and anchor. He said he never met anyone “with greater character or a better moral compass” than his father.
“The only thing I loved more than my father was being loved by him,” he said.
Visiting hours will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Carll-Heald & Black Funeral Home in Springvale. The funeral will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Curtis Lake Church in Sanford.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: