What began with a chat on Facebook, turned into an exciting event. The “Baxter Rats” was formed.
Through the social networking site, a family of friends, all grown up from Baxter, found each other. Bonnie Lisenbee found Joyce Osborn on Facebook and chatted about a reunion with old friends when Charles Johnson mentioned two little words, “Baxter Family” and as he continued, “things went wild after that.”
This story began in January 2012. Soon there were 55 members chatting and excited about a possible Baxter Reunion. Ava Gregor Dugger jumped on board, then Tom Madon. Along came Dot Dobbins Cherry, Don Samuels, Peggy Bianchi, Howard Shoope and Bill Vanover.
Osborn is not computer savvy, so she consulted with her niece, Alicia Hendrickson, Carol Romine Hendrickson’s daughter. She created the “Baxter Family” group. From there it flew. They organized this little group to accommodate Tom and Linda Madon, who had to come from California.
Tom had a planned trip for the weekend of Oct. 20, so it was official the Baxter Rats were meeting again after many, many years. It was like we had just talked yesterday, and tomorrow we would be gathering. Osborn began accumulating pictures for a Powerpoint presentation.
Connie Cooper Quigley provided an immense supply of photos of the Coopers, Bailey’s, Lisenbee’s and many sites from around Baxter. Sadly, she could not make the trip at the last minute due to her husband’s advancing cancer. Louise Deckard gave Osborn authorization to use a copy of a sketch her husband drew of the train coming down the railroad in Baxter passing the old railroad house.
Donnie Samuels and Bill Vanover took many photos to send — one beautiful scene of snow on the mountain, the old Baxter trestle, fishing hole at Baxter, the post office and many more.
During this period of accumulating memories and planning, Ava was diagnosed with cancer and had to begin chemo treatments. At the last minute she was well enough to attend. When Osborn spotted her in the lobby of the Holiday Inn, they both grabbed each other and cried. After all, they were now “family.” They had bonded like brothers and sisters, as Charles Johnson said.
Jane and Howard Shoope opened up their warm home to have a pre-Baxter Reunion party. Howard had cleared Osborn’s old home place, a very emotional time. He took Osborne and her friend, Ken, on an ATV tour where she was born and raised. He and Jane had purchased this land many years ago, but had not torn down the old house.
While touring the property, seeing where the old barn stood, talking about how small it was and how big she thought it was “back then,” he asked if it was okay to now tear it down to build something for the family. Osborn was so honored to now cherish wonderful memories of this little house, with all the photos that would last forever and acknowledged that it was a time to get on with using his land constructively. She felt honored that they had gone to such trouble to make a happy moment, but that is family.
The reunion was held at Camp Blanton Boy Scouts camp. The small pond made a very scenic place for a group picture. Peggy Bianchi Bird directed the food and T-shirts, Susan Bianchi Phillips, her husband, Russell, and daughter, Debbie, catered the food. Most of the seats were filled. They had now grown to an amazing 122, with 80 confirmed to attend. Bonnie Lisenbee drove from Utah with her friend Myra; Tom and Linda Madon traveled from California.
Charles Johnson brought his square dancing music and audio equipment, making it fun to pass the cordless microphone for everyone to introduce themselves and tell a little about their life since they left. Charles and his wife Ruth came from Indiana, and he moved the meeting with ease and professionalism.
To make the reunion complete, Tom arranged a special service at Baxter Methodist Church. He delivered the message and his wife Linda played piano. Danny Howard, mayor of Harlan, also made a guest appearance at the reunion and attended the church service Sunday.
The Bailey sisters — Louise, Mildred, Ester and Jean — bought thank you gifts for those making the reunion happen. Not a stone was left unturned to make sure everyone had a great time.
During planning, research began for a picture of the old Baxter School near the old Chappell’s Dairy, but to date they still do not have a picture of this school. Many items including T-shirts, a Baxter reunion CD and memory lane pictures of old families are available for purchase. Next year’s reunion is now in the kickoff stage.
To purchase items, to obtain a list of attendees or to join this family/friend group, contact Joyce Romine Osborn at 205-384-3640 or JOs8072008@aol.com.