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January 16, 2018 09:30 AM

 

When Patti Baker walked into her newly renovated Waco house on March 2 of last year, she thought she’d found her forever home — but life had other plans.

The mom of two appeared on the Jan. 9, 2018 episode of Fixer Upper, settling down in a beautiful bungalow designed by Chip and Joanna Gaines to be a fresh start for Baker — who relocated to Waco to be closer to her adult sons, Keith and Karl, after losing her husband of 37 years, Robert, to cancer in 2013.

Just months after taping her Fixer Upper reveal, though, Baker reconnected with the family’s former pastor. And during their first date — which included a tour of her new abode — Pastor Joe Finfrock, a fellow widower, took Baker by total surprise and popped the question.

Now married to Finfrock, Baker is reflecting on her life-changing 2017 — including the parts not captured on television — to PEOPLE.

Welcome to Waco

Though a Pennsylvania native, Baker spent several years in Texas, where both her sons went to college. She was living in Albuquerque when her husband died in 2013, and afterward she moved to the east coast for a short time. But Texas was calling her back, so she relocated to Waco, taking a job for the local school district and eventually purchasing the bungalow in 2015 through Magnolia Realty.

The property needed some renovation work, and Baker’s realtor suggested she apply online to have it remodeled on Fixer Upper.

Patti Baker
Courtesy Patti Baker

“I was really reluctant, mainly because I thought ‘there’s not a chance in the world that I get picked,’ ” says Baker. After a series of interviews with the production team through Sept. and Nov, 2016, Baker was determined a good fit — and demo day soon followed, in Dec. 2016.

Baker then moved in with her older son, and resisted the urge to drive past her house during the renovation months: “I didn’t see one shingle at all.”

Throughout the process, Chip and Joanna couldn’t have been more supportive, she says. “They are exactly how you see them on TV, she is totally — when she’s with you, she’s with you. Cameras, sound people, any distractions, it doesn’t matter — she is focused on you,” gushes Baker of Joanna. She adds of the couple, “They’re so down to earth — what you see is what they are.”

Courtesy Patti Baker

RELATED: See Baker’s Fixer Upper Home

During reveal day, Chip went above and beyond to make Baker’s sons feel the influence their late father had on the home: “To watch that man with Keith and Karl and how he interacted with them, out of honor to their dad, and talked about the importance of being a dad, and how proud their dad would be — family is so important to that couple.”

After the March 2, 2017, reveal (“It took my breath away to walk in the house,” Baker says), the happy homeowner moved in seven days later.

HGTV

A Surprise Proposal

Baker enjoyed her first months in the home, and was excited to share her experience with Pastor Finfrock, when they reconnected at a graduation party in early May 2017. Finfrock — who lost his own wife in 2015 — had known Baker and her family since 2009, and in fact married her son Karl and his wife in 2014. “There was a connection,” she says.

A week following the reunion, Finfrock — who is based in Graham, about a three hour drive away — made a trip to visit Baker and see her new digs. “He didn’t even have a clue what Fixer Upper was,” she laughs.

RELATED VIDEO: ‘Getting So Close’! Chip and Joanna Gaines Give an Update on Their New Restaurant

Admits Baker, “I thought it was a pastoral visit, but I wanted it to be something more.” And more it was: after a tour of the town — and Magnolia Market’s famed silos — Finfrock sat down on Baker’s sofa (carefully chosen by Joanna) and asked her to marry him. “It was beautiful,” says Baker.

Goodbye to a ‘Dream Come True’

In August, Baker and Finfrock tied the knot, with her sons walking her down the aisle.

Patti Baker and husband Joe Finfrock
Courtesy Patti Baker

Life as a Mrs. again meant relocating to Graham, and saying goodbye to her little Fixer Upper — which Baker just listed for sale for $349,900.

She’s still holding on to some of the decor and furniture pieces selected by Joanna — including a table crafted by Clint Harp — and will miss many aspects of the space (especially her favorite room, the kitchen).

Though her time in the home was short, Baker will cherish the experience always. “I loved everything about it,” she says of the reality TV remodel. “Who else better could do that for a widow [than Chip and Joanna]? I walked in 12 weeks later to everything not only being done but it being beautiful.”

Patti Baker (center) and her sons Karl (left) and Keith (right)
Courtesy Patti Baker

She praises the Fixer Upper family, and thanks all those involved for making her feel comfortable throughout the process and honoring Robert in the final design. “It’s daunting when you go in, you see these cameras and lights… but when they’re there, it’s just all about making your dream come true.”

And now, Baker says, “It’s happily ever after.”

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