All of her life, a Seymour woman stood up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves.
Anne Baxter fought for the rights of local adults and children with disabilities, making sure they had the best care and quality of life.
She helped organize a bowling league for the disabled and would dress up as Dazy Bo the clown, bringing smiles to people’s faces at community events.
Baxter died Friday. She was 81.
She is survived by her children, Shelli Baxter, Sharon Allman and Patrick Baxter; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Her husband, Ralph, preceded her in death May 29, 1997.
The funeral service will be 11 a.m. Thursday at Voss and Sons Funeral Home in Seymour. Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. today.
Perhaps her most important role was that of mother to her three children, one of whom, Shelli, led her to her work with the local Association for Retarded Citizens, now known as The Arc of Jackson County. She served as the organization’s executive coordinator for five counties and was president of the local chapter, which presents the Baxter Service Award each year to a caregiver.
The Arc continues its work today of helping provide resources, information and funding for residents living with physical and cognitive disabilities.
Her dedication and passion for others touched many people’s lives, including Floyd Amburgey of Seymour.
“I’ve known Anne since 1990. I met her when I worked at Developmental Services Inc. Her daughter, Shelli, worked there also,” said Amburgey, who now works for the city’s parks and recreation department. “She came in dressed as a professional clown and said to me, ‘I’ve met a thousand people today, and you are the nicest one.’ I looked at her and said, ‘I’ve met a thousand people today, and you are lying.’”
After sharing a laugh, the two became great friends.
“She had a great sense of humor,” Amburgey said.
After moving to Seymour in 1993, Amburgey became involved with The Arc and was asked to take a class in partners in policymaking in Indianapolis. To make sure he had transportation, Baxter took the class, too, and they graduated together.
“She taught me how to be an advocate, and she made sure I had what I needed,” he said.
Greatly saddened by Baxter’s death, Amburgey said he would miss her personality the most.
“If the room was dark and she walked in, she would light it up,” he said. “Her personality was that bright.”
Former Seymour resident Sandy Martsolf bowled with Baxter and helped her with the junior bowling league.
“What I remember most about Anne is that she always found something positive in every situation,” Martsolf said. “She set a great example for all of us.”
Debbie Davis of Seymour worked in the group home where Shelli lived and said Baxter became a mother to everyone who knew her.
“Anne was our ‘Mother Baxter,’” Davis said. “She got to know you and love you on a one-to-one basis. She was a wonderful mom, so caring and giving to all. Her involvement within the community and her church will never be forgotten.”
Baxter had been a member of Peter’s Switch Church of the Nazarene.
Besides The Arc, Baxter also served as the activities director for the former Jackson Park Convalescent Center and was secretary for the Women’s International Bowling Congress at what was then known as Starlite Bowl in Seymour.
Retired Tribune writer and editor Joanne Persinger said she remembers interviewing Baxter for stories about people with special needs, including when the state closed Muscatatuck State Developmental Center in Butlerville, a residential facility for people with mental disabilities.
“She was a fierce fighter for those who needed help,” Persinger said. “Yes, Anne was a great friend, a tireless worker and a champion for the disabled. If something needed doing, she did it. If something needed saying, she said it. She was one tough lady.”
Memorial contributions in Baxter’s name may be made to The Arc of Jackson County.