In memoriam: Herbert L. Baird Jr., 1923 - 2013

Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 10:28am
Western Today staff

[ Editor's note: This obituary is modified slightly from a version that appeared on the website of Westford Funeral Home. ]

Herbert L. Baird Jr., son of the late Herbert L. Baird Sr. and Jennie Cleghorn Baird, died peacefully of heart failure in his sleep Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, at the age of 90.

He was born Aug. 19, 1923, in Taft, Calif., and was raised in Costa Mesa, Calif., with his two sisters, Julia and Christine.

A US Army Purple Heart Veteran of World War II, Herb served from the first of the war and was wounded while serving as a medic supporting Allied troops during the “Battle of the Bulge” in Belgium. After his recovery he was sent back to the front lines in Germany, where he participated in the final grueling march to the end at the Elbe. At the end of the war, Baird returned to California and enrolled at Pomona College under the GI bill to study romance languages; he was a gifted linguist and ultimately earned his doctorate in medieval Spanish literature from the University of Chicago.

A professor of foreign languages and literature, Herb started his teaching career at the University of California, Riverside, before eventually coming up to Western Washington University, where he taught languages and literature until his retirement as associate professor emeritus in 1985.

Herb loved teaching, particularly the interaction with students -- academic politics, not so much. Though his time in the classroom ended in 1985, he continued to teach, by example, to the end of his life. Most importantly, he taught that getting old isn’t the end of life, that laughter really is the best medicine, that the most important thing is to live in the joy of each moment with deep gratitude for every kindness -- and that a generous and loving heart never fails.

Throughout his life, Herb traveled the world, picking up languages like most tourist pick up trinkets. He even traveled the entire width of Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. After retirement, he continued to travel, making friends through the world. He loved to entertain and did so often with well attended and happy parties. Nobody who met him forgot his bright wit, his infectious laughter, his smiling eyes and his kindness. He was a devout Christian, though very quiet about it, and taught the gospel through the example of his life well lived. He will be remembered and missed by many.

Known lovingly as “Bud” to his family, Herb is survived by his sister Julia “Judy” Baldwin, nephews Craig Baldwin, Myre Baldwin, Jeffery Baldwin, Ron Stage, Randy Stage, niece Deborah Stage, and dear friends Jean, Ian and Gail.

A memorial service was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Friday, Jan. 3, officiated by the Rev. Jonathan Weldon.