Baxter H. Burton, 80, of Effingham, Illinois, died on Sunday, September 3, 2017, at HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois.
There will be a private family burial at Brown’s Cemetery near Lake Sara. A gathering of friends and family to celebrate Baxter’s life will be held this fall. Johnson Funeral Home in Effingham is assisting the family.
Memorials may be made to the Effingham County Humane Society, P.O. Box 321, Effingham, IL 62401.
Baxter was born on September 29, 1936, in Detroit, Michigan. His mother was Rose (Pointer) Sarkis and his father was Richard Burton.
Baxter finished his formal education after graduating from eighth grade, but resumed his education almost 20 years later at Harvard Business School. He served in the US Air Force during the Cold War. While in the service, Baxter married his first wife, Carolyn (Denny) Gardner, and had 2 children – Bill and Lisa, and later a granddaughter Diana.
Baxter married Tracy Erway on June 22, 1984, in a lunch hour wedding that was planned the previous night. Despite this haste, the union thrived for 33 years and produced a daughter, Kate.
Always on the “bleeding edge” of the computer industry, Baxter maintained flight computers on B-52 bombers and trained airmen on computers in the 1950’s, marketed pioneering optical character recognition equipment in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and was a founding executive of a Silicon Valley high tech start-up in the 1980’s. He retired in 1998 to become a stay-at-home dad for his youngest daughter.
From fly fishing in the Rockies, to salmon fishing in Canada, to deep sea fishing in Hawaii, he loved all sorts of fishing. He caught a 232-pound marlin off Oahu, which miraculously grew to over 250 pounds in subsequent years! He was also proud to tell anyone who would listen about his solo hike down Bright Angel Trail and up the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.
His military service and computer career found Baxter and his family living in many places in the US including Traverse City, Colorado Springs, Wichita Falls, Dallas, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago (on three separate occasions), Minneapolis, and San Francisco. In 2004, he and his wife purchased a home on Lake Sara for weekend use, and in 2010, they moved permanently to the Effingham area.
In recent years, Baxter enjoyed his retirement at Lake Sara and spent most of his hours watching TV news, reading as many newspapers as he could, exercising with good friend Cynthia Sidwell and her daughters and watching the birds and wildlife, with his faithful Golden Retriever, Rocky, by his side. Rocky passed away just two weeks ago.
Baxter could always be counted on for lively conversation, and was willing to take whatever side of a debate was available and argue it with both reason and passion, frequently taking on strangers at historic Fraunces Tavern in New York City to impromptu debate contests.
Baxter is survived by his wife Tracy, his son William Burton (Effingham), his daughters Elizabeth Corty (Effingham) and Catherine Burton (Chicago), his granddaughter Diana Burton, and his sisters Patricia Laskey and Mary Sarkis.
He was preceded in death by his mother, his father, and his step-father, George Sarkis.