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Legacy for the dom

A grateful WWII veteran bequeaths it &

36;40,000 and a &

36;900 stamp collection

WHITE CITY ' William R. Baxter lived quietly for 17 years at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs domiciliary.

A confirmed bachelor, the World War II Army veteran went to the mess hall for meals, chatted with fellow veterans in the hallways and was a faithful member of the Veterans Stamp Club.

They were his family, explained Medford attorney Bill Haberlach, the Medford Municipal Court Judge and Navy veteran well known for helping veterans.

That's why Haberlach wasn't too surprised when Baxter came into his office on Sept. 8, 2003, to have a will and testament drawn up, leaving all his earthly belongings to the Dom, now known as the DVA's Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics (SORCC).

What surprised him was the amount in probate when Baxter died: He bequeathed &

36;40,026.74 and his stamp collection valued at &

36;900 to the facility and its veterans.

— Although Baxter died March 26, 2005, at age 84, his probate became final last week.

In addition to the money and stamps he left to the facility and its veterans, he also bequeathed &

36;3,000 to a cousin in Omaha, Neb.

I don't think he was a gambler or a drinker ' he just saved his bucks, Haberlach said. He was a very studious, intelligent guy. He obviously wasn't selfish or he wouldn't have left money to other people.

The bequest was the largest as well as the first in recent memory at the facility, said SORCC spokeswoman Anna Diehl.

While the bequest was unexpected, the fact it came from Baxter was not, she observed.

Bill was very warm and caring ' he always had a smile for everybody, she recalled. He was always very pleasant. Quiet, though.

Baxter lived at the facility from 1986 to 2003, she said, noting he was then moved to a foster home in the Medford area.

law, any bequeathed money must go into the center's general funds, she said.

Mr. Baxter specifically requested it be put in general purpose funds, she said, then citing federal regulations, added, It must be used for the general welfare of the veterans.

That could include things like the facility's vocational rehabilitation program in which an effort is made to find employment for veterans, she said.

For instance, if a gentleman is going to work at a local mill and he needs a pair of steel-toed boots, we would be able to get them for him with those funds, she said.

The funds could also be used for comfort items like telephones for patient rooms or even special events for veterans, she said.

The bottom line is that these funds must be used for the veterans' welfare, she reiterated.

Haberlach says Baxter showed the way for others to help veterans.

People running around with those stickers on their bumpers and SUV's that say support the troops, this is a way they could support the guys that served, he said, although noting they don't have to wait until they die to help.

A lot of those vets need a little help, he added.

Baxter, who is buried in the Eagle Point National Cemetery, was born Feb. 13, 1919, in Omaha, Neb., to Floyd and Edna Baxter. He had no close living relatives, Diehl said.

He was a clerk in the Army, serving three years beginning in 1942, she added.

The thing I remember about him was that he smiled a lot, Diehl said.

Perhaps he was smiling because he knew he was going to be helping his fellow veterans.

Legacy for the dom"pfattig@mailtribune.com.

Veteran William Baxter donated more than $40,000 and his stamp collection to the domiciliary in White City, where he lived for 17 years. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven