I have a friend who stands on the corner as I head on my run up to the Payson P or on the canal trail. Sometimes he waves, while other times he will greet me with a high-five that I must brace myself for if I don’t want to end up falling to the ground.
Whether it is a wave or a high-five, it is always accompanied with a smile. And each time I am greeted, I feel like I am being served in the purest of ways: genuine kindness and love for fellow men and women.
My friend has a name, and as it seems, I am not his only friend.
Brandon Baker, 38, has been a friend to countless locals and visitors since his family moved to Payson 25 years ago. And according to his mother, JoAnn Baker, her son has always had the talent of making people smile.
“Brandon is the second child of four children, and is classified as non-verbal and mentally delayed,” Joann Baker said. “Even with his challenges, my husband and I decided not to treat him differently. He did what the other kids did, and we took him wherever we went. He has been a local fixture always waving and smiling at people. We can’t go anywhere without someone knowing Brandon. He really has left his mark on so many.”
Last year, Brandon was featured on KSL for having saved a young man’s life with just a smile and wave and was recently given the “Heroes” award and awarded a special agent pin by Attorney General Sean Reyes.
When hearing of Brandon’s award, family members, friends and locals were not surprised. Many share the same love and gratitude for a man who shares his love so simply.
Serve Daily asked many locals to share their thoughts on Payson’s local hero.
I am Brandon’s older brother. He’s the second child in our group of four siblings. Brandon has always been a happy, social person! He has this way of putting a smile on anyone’s face with his quiet, simple way. Whether it’s hearing his infectious laugh, getting a high five from him or seeing him make a bee-line toward you when he sees you in a crowd, Brandon can make you feel so special. He has a deep love for his family, and nothing makes him happier than when we are all together.
He has eight, soon to be nine, nieces and nephews and I love watching the interaction he has with each of them.
I was at my parents’ house one day and my sister and mom had to go somewhere so they asked me if I could sit there with Brandon and my 2-year-old niece. While I was watching TV, I realized that my niece had wandered out somewhere in the house. In a panic I ran around looking for her only to discover that she had found her way into uncle Brandon’s room. He had picked her up and put her on his bed. As I watched uncle Brandon began grabbing his toys as she pointed at them and placing them on his bed around her, and the two of them began playing. This went on for quite a while, and I quite honestly couldn’t tell who was having more fun!
It’s been 20 years since I graduated, so my memories have faded, but in school, on countless occasions I can remember feeling a tap on my shoulder and turning around to find Brandon standing behind me with a big smile on his face. For some reason, he always wanted to shake my hand. His smile was contagious, and he always had the most positive attitude. He always makes everyone he comes in contact with feel special and noticed. He literally is a friend to all.
Brandon is my cousin. His dad and my mom are siblings. Our families have always been pretty close. He is about nine years older than me, so I have known him my entire life. We have always had a special connection. I remember playing with him when I was a kid. I knew he was different than my other older cousins (he’s non-verbal) but It never seemed weird to me or anything because he communicates in his own way and I just understood him or tried my best to when I wasn’t sure what he was saying.
He has always been so kind and gentle.
When I was going through my self-conscious teenage years he would always greet me by telling me that I was beautiful (in sign). He always seems to know when someone needs a boost. He has a “thing” for kids. He loves to make them smile.
When I was pregnant, I told him I was having a baby, and I think he was the most excited out of everyone I told. For those nine months, every time he saw me, he ran to me. He did the sign for baby and pointed to my belly, and I would assure him my baby is still growing and will be here soon. Of course he was so excited when my daughter was born. When he became an uncle when his siblings had kids, he became such a great and fun uncle.
Growing up with Brandon and experiencing his passion for life is one of the main things that put me on my career path that I have been on for the past 15 years, advocating for people with special needs.
Most people know him because he loves to stand outside of his house to wave at passing cars. His excitement at making people smile and having them wave back at him is palpable, and it never waivers. He has a true passion and talent of making others happy.
I went to school with Brandon from middle school all the way up to when we graduated from high school.
In high school I was a peer tutor and I got to work with Brandon and a few others. I remember going to the gym and shooting some hoops, going to the indoor and outdoor tracks and walking/running. I had a few classes with Brandon. I too have a learning disability(A.D.D.) I took ASL (American Sign Language) with Brandon in the class so when I see him anywhere I know that I can talk to him with my voice or using ASL.
I worked at Walmart in Payson, and I would drive by Brandon’s house on my way to and from work. I used to drive a VW bug and he knew my car. I didn’t have to honk because he knew who I was when I’d turn the corner. I had many bad days at work, and he would wave to me and he always had a big smile on his face and he always made my day 100 percent better.
I love that no matter what he’s been through, he always has a smile and wave for every person who drives by.
I love that he got me out of class a few times (kicked out) cause I was talking to him more than listening to the teacher. I love the smile he puts on my face when I drive by his house and he gives me the same smile and wave he had back in school.
Brandon is the definition of a pure soul. (Brown is a Serve Daily contributor.)