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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Medical Practitioners - Dr. Joel Baxter

BAXTER, Dr Ernest Joel (c1902–50) & Sylvia: Dr Baxter was one of Springwood’s most admired and respected medical practitioners. Both physician and surgeon, he trained in a number of Sydney hospitals.

He was born in Western Australia and was the son of Mr and Mrs John Baxter. In December 1929, following his marriage in August to Sylvia Watson (the daughter of Mr and Mrs J. A. Watson), he purchased the practice of Dr Milne in Springwood and remained here for the rest of his life. There were no children of the marriage.

His initiation into the Springwood practice was not an easy one. On the evening of 27 January 1930 a crowded excursion train ran off the rails and over an embankment at Warrimoo. Dr Baxter was one of the first to arrive at the accident site and found both the driver and the fireman dead and a 16-year-old Blaxland porter, who had been riding in the engine, trapped under the wreckage. Assisted by another doctor, Dr Baxter crawled under the engine and, in a two-hour operation carried out in heavy rain and using the light from car headlamps, amputated the boy’s hand to free him.

A cheerful and sociable man with a keen sense of humour, he involved himself in numerous town activities. He served a period as president of the Golf Club and as a member of the Christ Church Parish Council, was a life member of the School of Arts, a member of the Masonic Lodge and was actively associated with the Springwood Development League. He was a keen golfer and tennis player and a champion at billiards. ‘His handling of the cue’, noted one admirer, ‘like everything about him, was neatness personified.’ He was also a member of the honorary medical staff at the Nepean District Hospital.

Dr Baxter carried on working almost to the end of his life, assisted and supported by his equally popular wife, Sylvia. He died on 12 April 1950 in the Mater Misericordia Hospital in Sydney and was cremated at the Woronora Crematorium. A memorial service was held at Christ Church, Springwood, on 30 April and a committee was later established to raise money for a public memorial. The Dr Baxter Memorial Gates, designed by Wynn Davies, were erected at Buckland Park in front of the Springwood war memorial as a lasting tribute to one of Springwood’s most respected citizens.

Baxter Memorial Gates
John Low

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