Galen Baxter, a quiet gentleman, son, brother, husband, father, World War II veteran, American worker, world traveler, plantsman, member of the American Rhododendron Society and longtime Florence resident, passed away June 15, 2012. He was 87.
Galen was born June 12, 1925, in the Oklahoma Panhandle, to early settlers Robert and Maud (Clark) Baxter. Galen was interested in growing plants from seed by the age of 6. After graduating from Rosston High School in Rosston, Okla., he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 to become a signalman and ended up spending 18 months in the Solomon Islands.
Signalmen were responsible for transmitting, receiving, encoding, decoding and distributing messages obtained via the visual transmission systems of flag semaphore, visual morse code, and flaghoist signaling.
After the war, Galen stayed on the West Coast and eventually moved to Eureka, Calif., where he met Helen March. They married Nov. 8, 1952, then moved to Grants Pass, Ore., where their first son, Roger, was born, and Galen bought his first rhody (“J.H. Van Ness”).
The family, including J.H., moved to Florence in 1955. Later that year their second son, Donald, was born.
In 1957, Galen joined the American Rhododendron Society (ARS) and started raising rhodies from seed, most obtained from the Royal Horticultural Society and the ARS. Soon after, he started a floral nursery. He was a member of the ARS Eugene Chapter and a founding member of the Siuslaw Chapter, for which he served as program chairman, two terms as president, show judge and general rhody advocate to all.
For his contributions, the Siuslaw Chapter awarded him its Bronze Medal.
Galen was an avid outdoorsman. He loved fishing, hunting and camping. He taught both his sons to hunt and fish and how to survive in the woods at a very early age. He taught them how to garden, although they didn’t always appreciate that until they were adults.
Galen and Helen loved to travel. They attended many rhododendron conferences, including one in New Zealand. They traveled to more than 20 different countries and, in 1995, after selling their plants and property, traveled for nine months around the United States.
In 1997, Galen and six others joined Steve Hootman on a rhody trek in Sikkem.
Later in 1997, Galen had a serious illness. He and Helen moved to west Eugene, where their place is known as “The Jungle” because the property is filled with rhododendrons.
Galen accomplished all of this while working 34 years for International Paper.
He is survived by his wife, Helen; two sons: Roger and Linda Baxter and Donald and Colleen Baxter; a grandson, Colby Baxter; a granddaughter, Trista Baxter; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by three brothers and two sisters.
A celebration of life will be held Sunday, July 15, at noon, at the Summerfield Estates Club House, 1840 Summerfield in Eugene. A private graveside ceremony with military honors will be held at Roseburg National Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Florence Area Humane Society or the American Rhododendron Society Chapter of choice.
Musgrove Family Mortuary was in charge of arrangements.
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