1/3: Sonia, 2011
2/3: Sonia at 4
3/3: Sonia at 88

Sonia Edwards Baker

February 13, 1934 - January 15, 2024

Sonia Edwards Baker, 89, died at her home in Skyline at First Hill in Seattle, Washington on January 15, 2024. She was born three blocks away at Swedish Hospital on February 13, 1934, to Jane (Isackson) Edwards and Robert Lindley Edwards. Sonia was actively engaged in life until her last two years when she was incapacitated by the neurological disease Lewy body dementia.

Her earliest memories were of living in a houseboat on Lake Washington near Sand Point. As a young child her family home was on Capitol Hill, a couple blocks from Volunteer Park. During her elementary school years her family had moved to the “Five Acre Farm” in Renton, Washington. She began her teenage years in Guatemala during the year her father had a Cessna dealership there. Upon returning they moved to the “Hump Farm.” Sonia graduated from Renton High School as valedictorian. She then lived in Eugene, Oregon, for four years where, in 1956, she received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Oregon.

In her marriage to Maurice Montgomery Bell, Sonia gave birth to four children: Deborah, Andrew, Penelope, and Johanna. During those 20 years the family lived in Eugene, Oregon; Renton, Washington; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; and White Plains, New York. In a volunteer capacity Sonia was active in the Scarsdale Congregational Church, the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, and providing transportation to the state prison for families to visit their incarcerated husbands and fathers. This first marriage ended in divorce in 1974.

On July 4, 1976—Interdependence Day, she called it—Sonia married Kendall Clark Baker in the Congregational (UCC) Church in Scarsdale, New York. In addition to her own four children, she acquired four more in this marriage, ages 5 to 13. Sonia and Kendall made their first home in Tucson where he was serving as pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ. While there Sonia earned a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Arizona. In 1979 she was awarded a copper letter of recognition from the mayor and city council for her contribution to the development of a neighborhood plan.

The Baker family moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, in December of 1979. Sonia administered the Western Wisconsin Regional Arts Council (WWRA), a non-profit organization serving seven counties in three states, located in a historic “Pump House” building near the Mississippi River. In this capacity she successfully initiated the creation of the United Fund for the Arts.

After three years in Lawrence, Kansas, Sonia and Kendall moved in 1990 to San Bernardino, California, where they lived for the next fourteen years. While working as a consultant, Sonia wrote the cultural plan for the County of San Bernardino. As a volunteer through her church Sonia helped to create a weekly meal preparation and delivery program to persons homebound with AIDS. And for several years she headed up a youth accountability board serving troubled teenagers who had been referred by the court as an alternative to incarceration.

In retirement, Sonia and her husband moved to Seattle in 2004. As a founding member of the Edwards Mother Earth Foundation (EMEF), a mid-sized family foundation with an environmental mission of addressing anthropogenic global climate disruption, she served as president for many years and built it into a strong and effective philanthropic organization.

In October of 2009 Sonia and Kendall moved into Skyline at First Hill when it first opened. Sonia served the resident organization of this retirement community in many capacities over the years. Instrumental in helping to organize the environmental services committee, her commitment to recycling earned her the friendly moniker of “garbage guru.”

Although she died only three blocks from where she was born, Sonia had the privilege of counting many places as her home over her lifetime, including Guatemala City. In addition, she traveled to over forty countries. Some of the most memorable trips included: visiting French and English friends several times in their Normandy farmhouse; touring New Zealand with Kendall’s “Kiwi brother;” Cordell and Debbie in their home in The Netherlands; sailing in the Spanish Virgin Islands; swimming with dolphins in the Bahamas; a Holy Land pilgrimage to Israel and the Palestinian west bank territories; a month-long small group expedition to China including a visit to the Wolong Panda Reserve and a five-day trek to the summit of Mt. Omei in the Szechuan Province; teaching English one summer in Taiwan; whale watching in Magdalena Bay; a week on horseback and tenting on the beaches of Isla Margarita in Venezuela, a five-day trek in Peru to Machu Picchu via an ancient Inca trail; a week sailing back-and-forth across the equator several times in the Galapagos Islands; visiting Andy and Patti and Adam in Trinidad and Tobago when they were teaching (and studying) at an international school; going on several safaris in southern Africa; and visiting Megan in Thailand when she was teaching English as a Fulbright student.

Everywhere Sonia went she would collect rocks and minerals. She had a keen eye for discovering agates on any beach. Until shortly before her death she was able to pick up a rock from one of her many bowls and tell the story of where and how it was found.

Sonia was the consummate gift-giver. She turned a room in the house into Santa’s workshop and would begin the day after Christmas planning for the next year.

At the time of her death, Sonia had been the matriarch of her large and extended family for several years. She is survived by her husband of 47 years, Kendall; her brother, Jonathan Edwards, and his wife, Marcy; her first cousins Christopher Rayl and his wife Lila, Michaela (Rayl) Foley, and Meredith (Rayl) Cheston; the four children Sonia birthed: Deborah Bell, Andrew Bell and his wife, Patricia Guenther, Penelope Bell, and Johanna Bell; Kendall’s four children: Scott Baker, Dana Baker Clemens and her husband, Mike Clemens, Cordell Baker and his wife, Debbie (Berendsen) Baker, and Angela Baker Curran.

Sonia is survived by 13 grandchildren: Eileen Bell, Anna Bell-Hibbs and her husband, Sutter Wehmeier, Otis Bell, Garrett Bell and his wife, Lauren (Sanchez) Bell, Nick Bell, Megan (Baker) Allen and her husband Rob Allen, Adam Bell, Kyle Baker and his wife, Rachel (Jones) Baker, Dylan Baker, Dylan (Bell) Luce, John (Bell) Luce, Macallister (Baker) Curran, and Kingston (Baker) Curran; and seven great-grandchildren: Dita (Bell) Pedersen, Arlo Wehmeier, Orion Bell, Ren Wehmeier, Phoenix Bell, Arlee Allen, Rayne Bell, and one on the way.

Sonia was an early, active supporter of the program for the composting of human remains as a natural, peaceful, environmentally-sound, carbon neutral alternative to cremation. She was present in the governor’s office in 2019 when Washington became the first state in the union to legalize this funeral option. A private memorial service for the family will be held at RECOMPOSE on January 25. Hopefully, several months later after the threat of Covid has diminished, there will also be a celebration of life for the larger community held at Skyline at First Hill, 725 9th Avenue, Seattle.

Memorial gifts can be directed to the Edwards Mother Earth Foundation, 1501 E. Madison Street, Suite 600, Seattle, WA 98122.

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Recompose is a licensed, full-service, green funeral home in Seattle offering human composting. As the first human composting company in the world, we are a trusted leader in ecological death care. We are Seattle’s only human composting provider and serve clients across the U.S.

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Recompose acknowledges we make our lives and livelihoods on the lands of the Coast Salish People, specifically the Duwamish People. We honor with gratitude the Duwamish People past and present, the land itself, and the Duwamish Tribe. Colonization is an active, persistent process. Indigenous communities continue to be resilient in protecting their ecological and cultural lifeways and deathways despite ongoing oppression. Recompose respects, shares, and supports this commitment to climate healing and environmental justice. Join Recompose in contributing to Real Rent Duwamish.