by Fred J. Baxter
Fred G. Baxter was born in Suffern, New York, on July 28, 1920, to Fred and Mildred Baxter. Fred was one of four children. After high school, Fred attended the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics in Newark, New Jersey. Upon graduation in December 1941, Fred was offered employment with Pan American World Airways in Seattle, Washington. From January through July, 1942, Fred worked at what is now known as Boeing Field before being transferred to Juneau.
In July, 1942, when Fred arrived in Juneau, the airport consisted of a 3,500 foot dirt runway, which was generally located in the vicinity of the existing airport taxiways. The first 4,000 feet of the current runway was under construction and was paved shortly after his arrival. At that time, Pan American was flying two-engine Lockheed Lodestars, Lockheed Electras and DC-3 aircraft.
January, 1943, saw Fred transferred to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory for temporary duty under the supervision of the United States Navy, that had taken over control of Pan American. Fred and the other mechanics were assigned the specific task of keeping the Navy planes en route to the Aleutians operational. This was a difficult task as the temperatures that winter dipped into the minus 50 degree range. Special tents were constructed for each aircraft engine with personnel on duty around the clock to keep everything from freezing. In April, Fred returned to Juneau and his employment with Pan American.
After Fredís return from Whitehorse, he married Jirdes Winther, daughter of John and Ragnhild Winther, a long time Juneau family.
In July, 1945, Fred, Jirdes and son, Fred J., moved to Seattle, Washington where Fred continued his employment with Pan American, subsequently returning to Juneau in May, 1947 as Chief Mechanic. In May, 1956, Fred was promoted to Station Manager, a position he retained until 1965, when Pan American closed its Southeast Alaska operation. During the period that Fred worked for Pan American in Juneau, the aircraft serving Juneau transitioned from the early Lockheed Lodestars to DC-4, DC-6, Boeing Stratocruiser, and finally the Boeing 707 which commenced jet service to Southeast Alaska.
During the period from 1944 through 1954, Fred and Jirdes had six children: Fred J., Ronald, Gary, Terry, Sandra and Sherill. The family lived at 618 Gold Street where Fred undertook numerous remodeling projects for the family residence, which was the former Guyot residence.
In July, 1965, Fred was reassigned to New York, JFK Airport. In September, 1965, he was assigned temporary responsibilities in Auckland, New Zealand. Several months later he was permanently assigned the position of Airport Manager for Pan American in New Zealand. During this period of time, aircraft travel developed from prop driven aircraft to modern commercial jet service. In 1970, Pan American started transferring management responsibilities for overseas operations to foreign nationals. Rather than be reassigned to New York, Fred elected to retire from Pan American and return to Juneau.
After returning to Alaska, Fred served as Airport Manager for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough during the construction of the Ketchikan Airport, worked for Capitol Motor Supply, City and Borough of Juneau and the State of Alaska, finally retiring in 1983.
Appreciating the community of Juneau, Fred ran and was elected to the Juneau City Council/Borough Assembly in 1956, 1958, 1960 and 1962. After returning to Juneau in 1971, Fred ran again in the fall of 1971 and served until his appointment as Airport Manager for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough in early 1972. After returning to Juneau from Ketchikan, Fred again ran for election to the Juneau Borough Assembly in 1979, and was elected to a one-year term. He was re-elected in 1980 and 1983, finishing his Assembly service in October of 1986, when he was defeated for re-election. All total, Fred served fifteen and one half years of elected service to the community of Juneau. He was always proud of the fact that he represented all the residents of the community and worked aggressively for honest, open and efficient governmental services.
Fred has been active in the Elks, Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite and Shrine organizations. In addition, he served numerous positions with Resurrection Lutheran Church and as a representative to the Synodical Board for the Lutheran Church of America and participated in two national conventions that successfully laid the foundation for the national merger of the current Lutheran Church.
Fred and Jirdes live in Douglas and five of their children, many grandchildren and great grandchildren also live in the Gastineau Channel area. Their son, Terry, lives in Auckland, New Zealand.