Most days, it's the one image that Nancy Baker can't seem to
shake: Her 7 -year-old daughter, Virginia Graeme Baker, is trapped
underwater. Her eyes are closed and her arms are moving lifelessly with the
a few minutes on a sunny summer day in 2002,
Graeme, as she is known, passed away. The tragic incident occurred despite
her mother's desperate attempts to free her body. She was a victim of
suction entrapment, a cause of violent injury and/or death that has plagued
the pool industry.
"My daughter never
should have died," says the 48-year-old mother of five. "It's catastrophic
when a child dies in any way, all the more so when it's preventable.
"I believe that
every person is humane enough to know the right thing to do," Nancy adds. "I
believe that about the industry, government, homeowners and pool owners.
People would not want this to happen."
Like most parents
who have suffered a heart-wrenching loss, Nancy still feels the sting of her
daughter's absence. Graeme (pronounced "Graham") often is her first thought
Pool & Spa News March
27. 2006 www.poolspanews.con
morning and 1ast
one at night. But unlike most parents who have lost a child, Nancy is armed
with a potent weapon: notoriety. Graeme's grandfather, Nancy's
ex-father-in-law, is former Secretary of State James Baker III.
By using her
family's political clout and influence, Nancy aims to keep Graeme's death
from being in vain. In the short time since she lost her little girl, Nancy
has evolved from victim to healer to spokesperson and now an activist,
forcing action where others have failed. Working with Safe Kids Worldwide,
as well as in close proximity with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
(D-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), she is determined that no other family suffers
the same fate. Meanwhile, the pool and spa industry, while sympathetic to
Nancy's loss, says it is working continually to improve anti-entrapment
standards, and the current measures being advocated, if implemented, will
solve the problem.
Nothing in Nancy's
life prepared her for the events of June 15, 2002. Born in Texas to a
family of five children, Nancy moved
to Connecticut as a teenager and
married James Baker IV in 1982. In Washington, D.C., she worked in interior
finishes. Eventually, she and her husband had five daughters - Rosemary,
Hallie, Mary Stuart, and twins Jackie and Graeme.
In the four years
since the tragedy, Nancy has learned to tell her story in a measured tone.
Still, she pauses several times to compose herself, sometimes forgetting her
next word and breaking into tears.
daughter was graduating from high school and we were invited to several
parties that Saturday," she says. "This one was actually a pool party, and
my youngest girls were in the water with the other children. I was talking
to the hostess when I saw Mary Stuart, who was then 11, running toward me.
Her eyes were like saucers. She said, 'Mommy, Mommy, Graeme's in the hot
"I raced behind
her to the hot tub, which was on, but I couldn't see anything. 1 kept
saying, 'What? Where?' And her twin kept saying, 'Graeme's pretending.