William 'Wild Bill' K. Baxter
Nov 18, 1956 - Jan 17, 2017
- On January 17, 2017, Bill passed away at St. Joseph's Rehabilitation and Residence in Portland, Maine.
Wild Bill and his angel decided it was time to go for a ride in the heavens, so with the throttle wide open, pipes rumbling, followed by a streak of rubber and a billow of smoke he passed peacefully after a long 8 year journey of Alzheimer's disease. Bill was surrounded by his primary care team, and he had a firm grip holding onto his sister.
Billy was born November 18, 1956, in Albany, GA, the son of William E. (Ret MSGT USAF) and Barbara Lee (White) Baxter, in a burst of sunshine with a smile on his face. When his feet hit the ground he was running and he never stopped. Mom described him as her busy Billy.
Being a military dependent, Billy had the opportunity to attend many schools, i.e. Texas, Arizona, England, and then Maine. At the age of 17, in 1974 Bill decided to follow his father's and older brother's footsteps by enlisting in the USAF. At that time Billy had completed his HS GED through the Air Force and then went to Chanute AFB in Illinois where he received his training as an aircraft maintenance specialist. This specialty proved to be a good choice for he received his good conduct medal and the National Defense Medal, along with an outstanding unit citation, and then also Marksman qualifications with both the rifle and pistol. He served with honor and pride for his country from 1974 to 1977 when he left the service with an Honorable Discharge.
Following his service Billy worked at the Kittery Naval Shipyard from 1978 - 1981. In 1982 he decided to attempt entrepreneurship and purchased Jackie's Pizza in Hampden, changing the name to "Mr. Bills." With additions to the menu, pool tournaments, and cribbage matches, Mr. Bills came to be a very busy and fun place to hang out in Hampden. There was always something going on or something to do, with lots of laughs and great people surrounding Bill... that's how he lived.
Bill was very talented and mechanically inclined, like his father. Together they could take a "Chilton book" and tear an engine apart then put it back together, and of course they were surrounded by good music, with food on the barbecue and a cold one in their hands.
After various mechanical endeavors he decided, in 1989, to attend the America Motorcycle Institute of Daytona, Florida. Billy graduated at the top of his class while many others he had started with couldn't make the grade. It was after the completion of this school he once again launched into the world of entrepreneurship and opened, "Wild Bill's Hog Shop" in Winterport. His talents were well known, and his knowledge was sought after, but his preference was to work on American made Harley Davidsons. Bill was once quoted in the Waldo Independent as saying, "It's a feeling - When you crack the throttle on a Harley there's a throb, a power that comes out of it - you won't get on any other bike. Once you ride one you won't go back."
In 1997 Bill closed the doors to his shop and moved on by marrying his second wife, Lana, who was his best friend and his own "soldier". He mentored her as she joined and excelled in the US Army. Together they enjoyed military life in Tennessee and welcomed his third born child, Casey Gordon. While in Tennessee, Bill worked at the Fort Campbell MWR hunting and fishing department where he was well liked and respected by all. In TN Bill entered and won several turkey call competitions, which he was very proud of. Bill was responsible for coordinating and sponsoring hunting assignments for the population of the base that on occasion included general VIPs.
Wild Bill was a man of many talents, from his childhood all the way into his adult years. He was busy in everything, like playing in the dirt, making forts, participating in scouts, playing an instrument, enjoying karate, and mastering downhill skiing. When he was in England he was selected to play for the All Star youth baseball team as their catcher. Billy excelled in basketball to the degree that when he was in Loring, (8th grade), he was selected for the varsity basketball team. He was an avid hunter and loved to fish - just like his dad - and he possessed a good eye for the English darts and pool table.
He was known as "Wild Bill", the "Life of the Party", or "Mister Funny Man", because he possessed the rare talent in changing a crowd's attitude just by showing up and being himself. He appeared gruff with his bushy hair and wild beard, yet if you knew him you would recognize he was compassionate and strongly patriotic. He proudly served and rode with the Exiles motorcycle club for approximately ten years. Bill enjoyed a term as club president and was instrumental in organizing fund raisers and charity rides. Notably, Bill organized with many friends and support of other veterans, a "Walk With Pride" march, held on February 3rd, 1991, where 2,500 people participated in showing support for our deployed military personnel in Desert Storm. Having served during the Vietnam era, and recognizing his father's two tours in country, Bill was passionate regarding the treatment of veterans returning home. He was quoted in the BDN as saying, "The main thing is, man, regardless of whether you think it's right or wrong, you don't go out and give the troops crap."
In addition to the event above, Bill was one of the many organizers for the first Exiles Motorcycle Club Rodeo and Drag Race in Winterport. Hundreds of bikers from all over Maine and New England came to celebrate two days of drag racing and music while enjoying the company of others. The proceeds were donated to the Town of Winterport Recreational Department. (BDN July 1994).
In June, 1986 while on his motorcycle, Bill was a witness to a rush-hour traffic accident in Holden. Another witness, Gormley, stated to the Brewer Register, "Bill Baxter was a hero after the collision. Baxter literally tore the door off Hobb's car and pulled her out of the gasoline soaked vehicle." Unfortunately this young lady didn't survive the accident, and it would be interesting to know what her greeting was to Bill when he arrived (with his angel) at the pearly gates.
In 2008 Bill began to have memory issues at work in Tennessee and was placed on a medical leave. Then in 2010 he returned to Maine so that he could be closer to family while he was dealing with continued cognitive decline. After much testing, observation, and rule-outs he received an official diagnosis of Alzheimer's, but Bill still managed to keep a smile on his face while laughing, joking, and dancing. He enjoyed family time by going tubing, fishing, Rangely vacations, and long walks with his mom. His sister Lisa, was so devoted to Bill, together they faced the disease and all it brought with it. Lisa became Bill's advocate in every area of his life including accompanying him to every medical appointment. Lisa was devoted to the end and sat with Bill right up to the last breath - as promised.
Bill was predeceased by his mother - 2011, father - 2014 and best friend Gordon - 2008. He is survived by his daughter - first born (the apple of his eye) Crissia and her husband William Fettig, grandchildren Nathaniel Richard Fettig and Alexander William Fettig of Hermon; his son, Sergeant William E. and his wife PFC Joanna E. Baxter (who continue the Baxter tradition of serving our country) in Fort Hood, Texas; third child - son, Casey Gordon Turner (his buddy and hot-tub pal) of Freedom; his big brother and role model- MSGT Donald Ellis (Retired USAF) and wife Millie who reside in Hilo, Hawaii; his "sis" Lisa A. Perkins and husband Jeff (another buddy) of Hampden. He's also survived by many nieces and nephews, with a wide range of colorful friends.
Special thanks goes out to St. Joseph's Rehabilitation and Residence, C-Unit Staff, and all disciplines, for their love, preservation of Bill's dignity, and compassion over the past year. Bill enjoyed the live music, good food, your hugs and kisses, as well as dancing with all the girls. Maintenance included him in projects. You made him feel valuable and a part of something important. Your kindnesses were noticed and appreciated - you never allowed Bill's sickness to diminish his worth or his ability to continue interacting in his special way.
During his last 17 days you provided our family with a Hospice Suite that enabled Lisa to be with Bill 24/7 so that she could honor his wish and be present when he passed. You provided complimentary meals, living arrangements and emotional support. This was way beyond any normal care facility and what was expected. At the very end our family was blown away by the procession and the respect shown to Bill. There were so many departments represented by hallways filled with residents and staff wishing our family well and paying their respects as we were escorted out of the building.
The family would also like to thank Beacon Hospice for their compassionate nurses and home health aides and providing Bill with gentle comfort care. You were so warm and kind while attending on Bill, always respecting his dignity and personal needs. You were respectful and listened to the family, providing support and encouragement during our difficult time.
Bill would want you to skip the tears. Go out and have some barbecue, share some laughs, make some memories, and especially make every day count.
There will be a private committal service in the spring accompanied by military honors.
Gifts in Bill's memory are to be given to St. Joseph's Rehabilitation and Residence, 1133 Washington Ave. of Portland, ME 04103, Attn: Amanda.
If one chooses to give a gift in Bill's memory, you may do so by donating to activities, for example... live music and barbecues, or in support of the hospice suite. Condolences to the family may be expressed at