Mother of drowning victim speaks out; family asks for help with funeral costs

"Parents aren't supposed to bury their child," says Cara Ownsby.

Ownsby is the mother of Michael Ryan Baker, 18, who drowned Tuesday in the Saline River.

"He was such a fine young man," she said. "Parents don't think of their children as grown up, but he was.

He'd give you the shirt off his back. He made friends with everyone, and within 10 minutes he'd be the guy people would want to hang out with."

Ownsby said she learned of her son's death in a phone call from her former husband, Michael Baker.

Ownsby lives in Tennessee with her current husband, and Michael Baker lives in Haskell with his current wife.

"I had been texting with my son that morning and couldn't get hold of him," Ownsby said. "The family on all sides has been devastated."

To assist the family with funeral expenses, an account has been set up at the Bank of the Ozarks.
"We've never done this before" says Ownsby in talking about the funeral process.

Carla Harris, mortgage loan officer for Bank of the Ozarks, describes how the bank got involved.

"On Tuesday, I read online via the Courier website about the drowning incident, and my heart immediately sank for the victim’s family on the loss of their son," Harris said.

"I cannot fathom losing either of my children," she said. "It wasn’t until later that evening that Ryan’s mother, Cara Ownsby, reached out to me on Facebook asking if I could create a fundraising site to assist the family with funeral expenses. This was an unexpected tragedy that a parent often isn’t prepared for, and it’s heartbreaking.

"On Wednesday, our bank set up a memorial fund at Bank of the Ozarks," she explained. "Friends, family and others willing and able to help are encouraged to visit any Bank of the Ozarks location and donate to the 'Cara Ownsby – Michael Ryan Baker Memorial Fund.'"

She noted that there also is a separate account through "" set up via Facebook. 

"This family is grieving the loss of a young, energetic, loving young man," Harris pointed out. "The stress of worrying about funeral expenses only adds to their struggles. Although we cannot change what happened on that fateful day, I find comfort in knowing that we, as a community, will come together and assist this family with their financial needs during this difficult time."

Funeral service for Ryan is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, June 21, at Cross Bar C Cowboy Church, 10895 Highway 70, Benton. Burial will follow at Fowler Cemetery.
Additional obituary information appears on page 3 of today's edition.