Joe Truman Baxley
Joe Truman Baxley, the youngest of a family of eight, passed peacefully into a new state of being on May 9, 2021. Joe loved life and he lived it as fully as he could every moment, but he was prepared for life beyond.
At age 75, son of MayBelle and Henry Melvin Baxley, Joe was born on July 19, 1945 in Lumberton, N.C. He attended Lumberton High School and Pembroke College and graduated with a B.S. in Education from the University of Arkansas. Joe served four years in the U.S. Army as a Morse Code interceptor for the ASA, earning the National Defense Security Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Meritorious Unit Citation Medal.
Joe began his career as an elementary teacher in Ft. Smith, Arkansas and Manor, Texas, where he taught fourth and fifth grade science. At Pine Island, he continued his love of teaching science and earned recognition for his work in mentoring students in science fairs. Joe also worked with the Calusa Land Trust to take his students on field trips into Pine Island nature preserves and one year he took them on a boat trip to visit the Useppa Museum for a history lesson. Later, Joe and his wife donated an environmentally diverse 5-acre parcel of land to the Calusa Land Trust, named the Baxley Preserve.
As head of the Pine Island Elementary School Patrol, Joe was often the disciplinarian the kids had to deal with in the morning before school, and some of the younger ones thought that he was the principal. Even as adults, Joe’s students frequently hailed him as they went about their lives in the island community. It was the accolade he was most proud of, being remembered as a teacher who changed many students’ lives and by teaching them how to learn.
Joe’s great recreational love was fishing, and he always caught fish. Even his older brothers would admit he was more successful at it than they were and frequently visited Pine Island for him to prove it. His favorite spot to fish was Boca Grande Pass, where he and his wife consistently caught their favorite fish, mangrove snapper and the eventual location of his final resting place.
Joe is survived by his dear and devoted wife Judy and his beloved siblings: sisters Frances Lan and Betty Ann; brothers Charles David Irvine and Hugh Leonard; as well as many fine nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his dear brothers Henry Douglas, Horace Osbourne and Melvin Benson. May our beloved Joe rest in peace.