Even in her 90s, Nan could be found at the beauty shop, taking care of business and entertaining her increasingly older customers.
She died of a stroke Monday at age 93. She lived in Port Richmond, where she was born and raised. But in recent years, she spent a few days each week with her granddaughter Marie and her husband, Marty, in Ardmore.
"She would go back to Port Richmond three days a week and go to the shop," Marie said. "As recently as last week, she would sit at the desk, answer the phone, order sandwiches for the ladies. She was still working.
“I think you have to be 80 to go in there now," Marie joked. But it is true that Nan's customers, many of whom had been with her through much of their adult lives, were getting a little gray.
Marie has happy memories of visiting the shop when she was a child. Grandmom would open the cash register and hand out quarters. The grandkids would take the quarters across the street to a candy store and stock up.
"You could get a lot of candy for a quarter in those days," Marie said. "She was happiest being around kids. She loved babies."
And there were a lot of babies to love. Nan had 20 grandchildren and more than 30 great-grandchildren. The exact number was hard to calculate.
Nan was born in Port Richmond, the fifth of the nine children of Jack Cole and Bridget Ryan Cole. She attended Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School and later a commercial school where she got secretarial training. Her first job out of school, at age 15, was as a waitress at a Stouffer's restaurant. She married Robert Baker, an ironworker, when she was a teenager and they had four children by the time she was 24.
Nan was a stay-at-home mom until 1951 when she became a crossing guard in the neighborhood. She guided schoolchildren across the street until 1959, when she opened her beauty salon.
"Nan was a doer," Marie said. "She did not like being idle. Even in the last five years that she spent at my house, as she became more frail, she did all our laundry and folded like a pro. But she had to get back to Port Richmond to work in the shop and get her hair done. She had to look good.
“She loved having her family around, loved to crochet and sew, loved to kid around and laugh."
The shop will continue in business, run by Nan's longtime assistant, Angie Leister.
Nan's husband died in 1984. She is survived by her daughter, Barbara Baker Foody; sons Edward Baker and John Baker; all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and even one great-great-grandchild. She was predeceased by her son Robert Baker.
Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. Thursday at Nativity BVM Church, Belgrade Street and Allegheny Avenue. Friends may call at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the church. Burial will be in Our Lady of Grace Cemetery, Langhorne.
Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @johnfmorrison.