Less than 12 hours before his body was found Saturday morning, Graziano Baker was grinning and joking around on Facebook Live.
He greeted and joked with people who walked into the bar, rapping and singing along with the music into the camera for almost an hour.
The next morning, Baker was found dead in a driveway in the 2400 block of Ridge Avenue in East St. Louis. The 52-year-old had been fatally shot in the chest, according to St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr.
The Facebook Live video — Baker’s last post to his friends and family — garnered almost 6,000 views and 400 likes and comments in the two days after his death, nearly everyone expressing their shock and grief at his untimely death.
“He was the life of the party,” said Della Harris, one of Baker’s cousins. “He would make sure everyone was smiling ... and he kept a smile on his face. They took a whole piece out of my heart. They’ve taken his heart away from me.”
Harris and Baker lived only a few blocks away from each other. They were so close, Harris said, that people often mistook them for a couple. Every time Baker saw her, he’d pull her into a hug and kiss her on the cheek.
Baker was the family leader, the one who paved the way for everyone else, Harris said. When kids got in trouble at school, he was the one they would call. The bio on his Facebook shows he identified himself as “The one who takes care of everybody.”
Baker’s younger sister, Miyai Baker, said her brother was the one everyone could always depend on. He liked being in charge, and Miyai Baker used to called him her bodyguard and protector. He had been in the U.S. Army for about four years, Miyai Baker said.
“Everybody that knew him, they loved him,” she said. “That’s why this is such a shock. People respected him...he was always fun and the life of the party. He could just come into a room and light it up.”
With nine siblings, eight children and seven grandchildren, Baker had a lot of family. He was close to them, and was a good dad and granddad, Harris said. The family is struggling to come to terms with his death.
“I’m gonna miss the most ... his smile. Just him period,” Harris said. “When I’m going through something, he was coming. When I needed something, he was coming. It’s hard to find people like that.”