Former Juneau resident Helen McIlhardy Baxter died peacefully on July 31, 2007, after a valiant fight with lung cancer with her husband and daughter at her side. She was 67.
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Born in January 1940, in St. Louis, she moved with her family to Alaska two months later. Her dad, Frank McIlhardy, was an air traffic controller in several Southeast cities. During World War II, she and her mother, Cecelia, were evacuated from Yakutat fearing an invasion.
"Helen was a beautiful red-head, and her wonderful personality stood out in a crowd," said her husband. "She was very musical, turned down a chance to go to Juilliard, but played piano all of her life to the delight of her family and friends, and her mother-in-law, Ruth Baxter (deceased)."
She graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1957, but was a "Douglas girl" through and through.
Family members said her calling as a caring mother soon began, and she delivered Daniel, (Melody), Robert (Becky), Cathy (Dan Condreay) and Ken (Marina). She also continued with her career as an administrative assistant in various state agencies and then with the U.S. Forest Service. In fact, she was once the "Acting Regional Forester" for all of Alaska. She retired from the Forest Service in 1990 but continued contact with her many friends there.
She found her soul mate in Frank Baxter and they were married in May 1969. She supported him through college and through life. If he wanted to give up a great job and start his own CPA practice, she was there running the clerical part of the company. If he wanted to start a pizza restaurant, she was there, serving up pizzas and doing the dishes. When he was the commissioner of administration, she was at the state dinners. He always wanted to go commercial fishing, and so she did that too. She did almost everything aboard their ship, the Amnicon, but drew the line at snapping shrimp heads.
When they left Alaska in 1992, they went to be closer to their daughter, Cathy, in the Kent, Wash., area. Then they were off to Wenatchee, Wash., then Grand Coulee, Wash., Craig, Kennewick, Wash., and finally, to Browns Point, Wash., in 1999. What a ride! (But they never missed a Fourth of July in Juneau and Douglas.)
She is survived by her husband of 38 years; children, Dan, Cathy, Bob, Ken and Nick Baxter; 24 grandchildren; and four great- grandchildren; and a cousin, Cathy Kersey, of Moses Lake, Wash.
She survives in her family's hearts and in the hearts of her many friends in Juneau and Douglas, especially Pat Sanford, and her friends in Washington.
A private family gathering was held at her home in Browns Point. According to her wishes, her ashes will be distributed in Juneau and Douglas by family and friends.