To those who knew him, Chris Baker was much more than just Travis Barker's personal assistant. He was a kind, good-natured friend, a practical joker, a proud father, a loving son and an avowed gearhead who never could quite believe that his love of cars had led him to a life of fame and fortune.
Baker — affectionately known as "Lil Chris" by friends and family — was killed in Friday's jet crash in Columbia, South Carolina, along with three others, including Barker's security guard, Charles "Che" Still. And though he may be gone, those whose lives he touched — a diverse group of artists and friends, telling of a man who was loved by so many — are determined to make sure his memory lives on.
"I still can't believe he is gone. He was a person that was always smiling, always happy and always cracking jokes. He was not just Travis' best friend — he was everybody's best friend," Lil Jon said in a statement to MTV News. "He was one of the coolest, nicest and caring people I knew. He was always trying to make sure everybody was OK. It's a tragedy when you lose people like this. All I keep thinking about is his son. He looks just like his father and already is a star."
"Lil Chris was like a brother to me — I loved him like a brother and he loved me like one. His memory is forever implanted into my heart. There will not be a day I live where I don't think of my brother," the Game told MTV News. "Travis, I love you too, homie. See you soon. Your pain is my pain."
Those sentiments were echoed by rock acts like Fall Out Boy and Cobra Starship, who got to know Baker during the 2007 Honda Civic Tour, when both bands toured with Travis Barker's Plus-44.
"Chris was a rad guy. He always had a way to get us to smile on tour, no matter what situation we were in, and he was truly beloved," Fall Out Boy told MTV News in a statement this weekend, just hours after the jet crash.
"Chris was an awesome dude, and I'm shocked and saddened this happened," Cobra's Gabe Saporta added. "I just don't know what else to say beyond that."
But the tributes didn't end there. Artists like Paul Wall and Too Short also reached out to MTV News, remembering Baker as "the most generous and kindhearted person ever" and a guy who "always looked out for everybody," loved to crack jokes and always wore a smile on his face.
In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Baker's parents recalled a boy who grew up obsessed with fixing classic cars. He and his stepfather, Robert Warn, worked together on a 1953 Chevrolet, and as a teen, Baker participated in the Roseville (California) Police Athletic League's car program. After moving to Los Angeles to start an auto-detailing business, his obsession took him in an altogether different direction, thanks to a chance meeting with Barker at a gas station.
"Chris told Travis that he had a really nice car but he needed to hire him to take care of it," Warn told The Bee.
The two began a fast friendship soon after, and Baker spent a year touring with the drummer before being hired on as his personal assistant. And though he had suddenly — and rather unexpectedly — entered into a globe-trotting lifestyle, Baker always remained humble and a bit amazed by his fortune.
"Chris got to see the world with Travis," Baker's mother, Linda Warn, told the newspaper. "He went to Japan, Australia, almost all of Europe and every state in the continental U.S., I think. ... Once, he called us at 3 a.m. just to tell us he was standing in front of the 'Mona Lisa.' "
Baker was just 29 years old and is survived by his wife, Jessie, and a toddler son, Sebastian. On Monday, Barker's clothing company, Famous Stars and Straps, announced the establishment of a pair of memorial funds in Baker's and Still's names, with donations going to their respective families.
"It is with the utmost sympathy and regret that the Famous family confirms the tragic loss of two of its most beloved members," a statement from the company read in part. "With heavy hearts we offer our deepest condolences to their family and friends. They will always remain in our thoughts and prayers."
For more information on the Chris Baker and Charles Still Memorial Funds, check out Famous Stars and Straps' Web site.