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Fred Baxter dies at 89, remembered as fine public servant

Former Assembly member elected eight times, served 15 years

Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2009

Juneau lost one of its finest public servants and true community role models earlier this week with the death of Fred Baxter, former Juneau Assembly colleagues said.

"He was just a walking history of the town, so he kept us from falling in a ditch a time or two," said longtime friend and former mayor, Bill Overstreet. "Fred was just always a guy I turned to when I needed a little help or a little advice."

Baxter died Oct. 14 at his home. He was 89.

Baxter, who moved to Juneau in 1942 to work for Pan American World Airways, was elected to the Assembly eight times and served a total of 15 ½ years of elected service in the community.

"I just don't know if there is anyone more widely known and more widely respected over all those years than Fred Baxter," Overstreet said.

Baxter served the community in a number of other capacities over the years, including jobs with the city harbors department and the state following his retirement from Pan Am in 1970. He retired a second time in 1983 and continued to be involved in the community as a member of the Elks, Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite and Shrine organizations.

Baxter also served in a number of capacities with Resurrection Lutheran Church. He was awarded the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Service Award in 2001.

Mayor Bruce Botelho, who served on the Assembly with Baxter from 1983 to 1985, remembers him as a strong fiscal conservative that cared about how the city functioned.

"Fred was a person who was very concerned about bread and butter issues, in that making sure that basic city services were taken care of," he said.

Botelho said he has strong recollections of Baxter wanting to make sure the city workers were adequately doing their jobs.

"He wanted to make sure people were on the job and on task," he said. "He was a real no nonsense kind of guy."

Rich Poor, who served on the Assembly with Baxter from 1981 to 1985, said he was an "exemplary citizen" of Juneau.

"He was just a good guy," he said. "He was just a down to earth, common sense, things-had-to-add-up type of guy that served his community very well."

Baxter understood community issues and wasn't afraid to say what he believed, Poor said.

"If something wasn't right, he'd certainly speak out and correct it," he said.

Not only was Baxter a good role model, more importantly he was very friendly, Poor said.

"He was just easy to communicate with. Jovial. He always liked a good joke," he said.

Baxter left a legacy of public service behind, but he also has a large extended family that still calls Juneau home.

Baxter's family was the first family Overstreet became friends with when he moved to Juneau in 1952. Baxter's wife of 66 years, Jirdes, is from the Winther family, a longtime Juneau family of Norwegian descent. Overstreet said his family has many fond memories of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with the Baxter family.

"I had to learn to eat Norwegian food, which wasn't easy but it sure is easy now," he said.

A celebration of Baxter's life will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Chapel by the Lake. A gathering will follow at 4 p.m. at the Twisted Fish.

Overstreet said he will remember Baxter as a knowledgeable, capable and good friend.

"He was just a model of what a public servant should be in my notion," he said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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