PAYSON — One Payson man is known for standing on the corner near his house for up to three or four hours, seven days a week — doing one simple thing. This small gesture has done more than his family ever expected.
Brandon Baker, 36, starts his day at Central Utah Enterprises Linen Supply, a sheltered workshop in Provo, doing laundry.
He loads washers and dryers and folds tablecloths and towels with his co-workers, who also have developmental disabilities.
Brandon Baker doesn’t talk but says everything he needs to with his hands and a smile.
“Brandon is a good friend," his co-worker Scott Zwick said. "He waves to everyone, makes everybody smile, (and) makes everybody happy.”
Everyone at work is fond of Brandon Baker.
“Although he is non-verbal, he is very keen to people’s emotions (and) very keen to how a person’s feeling that day and looks for opportunities to make people happy,” said Steven Hartline, program manager at Central Utah Enterprises.
However, doing laundry is only the beginning of Brandon Baker’s day.
In the late afternoon, his father, Ken Baker, picks him up when he is not taking the bus home.
“OK buddy, let’s go home,” the father says.
As soon as Brandon Baker gets home, he throws his backpack in the house and immediately goes outside.
“When he gets home from work, that’s usually the first thing he does,” his mother, JoAnn Baker, said.
It’s something he has done for more than 25 years.
“Brandon is known for his smile and his wave,” his older brother, Phil Baker, explained. “For someone who can’t talk, he is the most social person I know.”
He religiously stands on the corner of his house for up to three or four hours some days and waves at every car that drives by. People in Payson often go out of their way to drive by his house to honk and wave back as they go by.
Just about everyone in Payson claims to be his best friend.
“But I’ve got to say, I’m his best! I’m his bestie,” family friend John Edwards said.
Bus driver Gayle Openshaw is also a good friend. She knows how much Brandon Baker loves school buses. She makes sure to drive her school bus by the Bakers’ house every day to pull her bus horn.
“He’s my buddy! No matter where I go, no matter what I do, if we see each other he gets excited,” Openshaw said.
Ken Baker said Brandon’s interactions with everyone he meets are genuine.
“There’s nothing fake about Brandon,” he said. “Brandon doesn’t forget a person. You meet him once and if he sees you drive by, he’ll recognize you and wave, and he knows exactly who you are.”
Unless it’s storming outside, the town can count on him to be in front of his house.
“Yesterday, he was out there for two hours. I had to finally call him in and say 'OK, it’s getting dark. Come in,’” JoAnn Baker said.
His mother never thought much about his routine until a neighbor approached her one day.
“I have something I need to tell you about Brandon,” she told JoAnn Baker. “Actually he saved my son’s life.”
This woman said her son was driving up the canyon last year. He was very depressed and “was contemplating suicide,” JoAnn Baker said.
As he drove up the road, her son saw Brandon Baker smiling and waving.
“(He) kind of pulled over and sat there and thought, ‘If Brandon can live his life with the challenges that he has and still be happy, then why can’t I?’” JoAnn Baker recalls from their conversation.
The neighbor's son decided to turn his car around and go home. To this day, Brandon Baker has no idea his wave saved a life that day.
“That kind of an impact — how do you measure something like that?” Ken Baker expressed.
Brandon’s father says he imagines Brandon will stand on that corner until he is living somewhere else, and in that case, he’s sure Brandon will always find another corner to stand and wave on.