Lt.Col. Jerome (Jerry) R. Baxter, 82, flew to his final resting place on January 10, 2021.
Jerry was born on August 26, 1938 in Bronx, NY, where he grew up in the flight path of La Guardia airport. He knew from the time he was a small boy that he wanted to be a pilot. On June 10, 1958, he was commissioned as a 2Lt. in the USAF where he was initially slated as a navigator. He later graduated first in his pilot class earning both the academic and acrobatic flying awards and the coveted role of flying the single seat F102 fighter jet. This jet now sits, along with his uniform and flight gear, in the Museum of the United States Air Force. He also flew the T-33A, U-2D, F-4E, F/TF-102, T-41, T-37, T-38, a handful of experimental aircraft as a test and evaluation pilot, and held crew experience on the B-52(navigator), T-29, C-54 and SA-16. During his career, he earned his BS from the University of Rochester, and served as the Head of Test and Evaluation at WPAFB. During his service, he moved around the world living everywhere from Germany and Iceland to locations throughout the United States (MA, TX, IL OK, NY), and finally retiring to Beavercreek, OH.
Some of his favorite memories of his time in the USAF included flying against Russian Bear aircraft while filming home movies in Iceland, breaking the sound barrier in a Top Gun-like moment buzzing the control tower in Germany, and having the opportunity to fly experimental aircraft. By far, his best memories were meeting his wife, Helga (Kamischke) at an USAF movie theater while buying popcorn in 1961 in Westover, MA, and the birth of their three beautiful daughters, Michele, Alison, and Holly.
He retired from the USAF in October 1982 and started a second career as a commercial pilot with Piedmont Airlines/USAir/PSA Airlines, which he loved until the day he retired, flying his last flight on his 60th birthday(the last day he was legally allowed to fly per FAA rules at the time), in 1998.
Jerry was also a loving and fun-loving husband and father who lived for telling really bad jokes, and planning family outings down to the minute. He was the kind of dad who made sure his daughters could change a tire and gap a spark plug before he would let them learn to drive, and encouraged each of them to pursue a career they loved as much as he loved his own. In honor of his wishes, I will just note that “He ate the fries.”
Jerry is survived by his devoted wife of 57 years, Helga; his daughters, Michele Baxter, Alison Chelman, and Holly Baxter (Ken Bedel); and three grandchildren he adored, Christopher Chelman, Laura Chelman, & Kyla Bedel. He is also survived by numerous siblings, extended family, and lifelong friends.
Jerry will be remembered, loved, and greatly missed by all. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Museum of the United States Air Force in Jerry’s memory.