M. Wendell's Story

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The funeral services celebrating and honoring M. Wendell Eugene Baxter will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at Emmanuel Church, with Pastor Wade Burleson officiating. A private burial will precede services at Memorial Park Cemetery. Services are under the direction of Brown-Cummings Funeral Home.
Wendell Eugene Baxter was born in Gould, Okla., in 1931. He spent his formative and school years in Hollis, where his parents managed a lumber yard.
Monnie Crane Cotton became his wife in 1952. They have three children: Kevin (Los Angeles, engaged to Trudi Bandy), Kathi Goodman (David, Woodward) and Krista Waldron (John, Tulsa). Among them they have four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents and grandson Justin Goodman.
He adored his children. He indulged their interests and passions, helping to install darkrooms and movie-screening facilities, building stilts and ballet bars, and supervising countless experiments with an iffy chemistry set. More than a few boyfriends were daunted by his seemingly serious presence, but he was quick to laugh and was full of more surprises than many would suspect. We remember family events like 2 a.m. snowman building and his participation in slumber party shenanigans.
He lived his philosophy that ongoing learning of any kind is essential to a rich life. His five degrees were evidence: a B.S. in Journalism from OU, a B.S. in hospital administration from OBU, an M.S. in administration from Wichita State University, a M.P.H. from OU and a PhD from OU. For years he served as an adjunct professor of business at Phillips University. He studied art and earned his flight license in 1974. Once he had a computer he wrote and studied genealogy. His one published book is about health care in Oklahoma: "The Rural Hospital Ministry of Oklahoma Baptists."
His Baptist faith guided all aspects of his life, and he served as a leader first at First Baptist and later at Emmanuel churches, as deacon and chair of deacons and as Sunday school teacher and director. He loved Enid and served in several of its organizations, including the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce, Vance Development Authority, United Way and Rotary Club. In his last years he volunteered at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center and served on the Bass Foundation Council.
Gene left his greatest mark on the community as chief architect of health care in Northwest Oklahoma and administrator of Bass Hospital, seeing it though several incarnations from Enid General Hospital through its joining of the Integris network. He began in 1970 and retired in 1996.
He served subsequent interim stints at Bass and at Integris hospitals in Grove and Miami. He served as president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association and president of the Southern Baptist Hospital Association, from whom he received the Cleveland Rogers Distinguished Service Award. He was a Regent of the American College of Healthcare Executives and a member of the Midwest Health Congress, who gave him their first Fellowship Award to Mid-Career Executives. He was a trustee of the Northwest Integris Health Foundation.
While at Bass, he oversaw major remodeling projects including construction of the Medical Plaza office building and the addition of the hospital's fourth-floor surgery department. He guided many outstanding clinical programs, including the Radiation Oncology Center, Birthing Center, Generations, Home Health, Occupational Health and Rural Health clinics. He was proud of having done so much for health care in Northwest Oklahoma.
Equally important to him, though, were the insistence that his hospital be a place where kindness was equal to quality of care, both from employee to patient and from employee to employee. He was respected so much in part because he treated the people around him with the same.
Gene and Monnie, his great love, were married a remarkable 64 years. With her, they enjoyed many special Enid and long-distance friendships, especially their local bridge and Sunday school groups. They spent hours each week watching basketball, tennis, golf and football, traveling as his health allowed, and playing first tennis then golf and bicycling together for decades. They spent winters for 15 of their retirement years in Arizona and then Texas so they could have a few extra months on the golf course.
Memorials made be made to the Baxter Community Assistance Relief (CARE) Fund (600 S. Monroe, Enid, 73701); the Baptist Children's Home (16301 S. Western Ave., Oklahoma City, OK 73170); or Emmanuel Church (2505 W. Garriott, Enid, OK 73703).
Condolences may be made to the family online at www.Brown-Cummings.com.
Published on April 15, 2017
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