A 37-year-old Greek Orthodox priest died in a crash on Route 2 in Norwich on Sunday afternoon, according to state police.
Police said Matthew Baker, of Danielson, was driving a 2002 Dodge Caravan west on Route 2 just prior to 4 p.m. Sunday when he lost control. He was thrown from the van when it crossed into the snow-covered median and rolled several times before stopping on the east side of the highway.
The Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston has identified him as the Rev. Fr. Matthew Baker and said he was recently reassigned to the Holy Trinity Parish of Norwich.
Baker was traveling home from the parish with his children, according to the church. Police said Baker's six kids, ages 2 to 11, all suffered minor injuries and are being released from the hospital.
Baker became a Greek Orthodox priest in January 2014. He made a name for himself in the orthodox community, as well as the parish in Norwich, gaining a reputation as an intellectual and a man committed to the spiritual needs of his parish.
"He was very quick to form deep relationships. It was very easy to talk to him, and to feel as if you had known him for a very long time," said Fr. Nick Dellermann, of St. Nicholas Church in Norwich.
Fr. Dean Panagos, of St. Sophia Church in New London, said Baker was the kind of man and priest who connected quickly with worshipers.
"We went to lunch one day and an hour and a half lunch ended being almost four and a half hours of talking as if I knew him all my life," Panagos said. "That's a kind of loving priest, a scholar, but very personable."
A GoFundMe page set up to support Baker's family raised almost $181,000 in 16 hours. The goal is to collect $250,000.
Baker's widow, Presvytera Katherine Baker, posted an update on the crowd-funding page Monday evening.
"The kids and I are in very good hands. We have been cared for & loved beyond believe," she wrote. "We have everything we need right now... mostly I need prayers and I need your outpouring to still be there down the road a bit... it's overwhelming right now... we may need to spread it out over time."
Baker's wake will be held from 6-9 p.m. Friday, March 6 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Norwich, followed by the funeral at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 7 at the Church of the Annunciation in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Police ask anyone with information about the crash to call State Police Trooper Scott Pierce at 860-848-6500, ext. 5075.