Eric S. Baxter ’75 died on July 15, 2020 in Gray, Maine.
(The following was published by the Maine Sunday Telegram on July 26, 2020)
Eric Stoddard Baxter completed his life circle in the early hours of July 15, 2020, surrounded by the love of his brother Scott, dear friends Donna Stearn and Peter Mazzaglia and his beloved partner in life and husband, Lonnie Leeman. He was buoyed by the love the two shared. Cancer triumphed over his body but never his spirit.
Eric was born January 3, 1953 to Hartley “Barney” and Jayne Stoddard Baxter; at the Togus Campus in Maine. He attended South Portland schools and graduated from Bowdoin in 1975. He then took a gap year and off to Europe he went. This gave him the travel bug that never left. When he returned to Maine, he went to work for AAA. He edited their magazine, lobbied for travel and safety, and through intellect and charm flourished. Eric took a break from AAA and worked for a Fortune 500 company with his offices in Manhattan and Rumford. A fortuitous shift in corporate culture led Eric back to the world of travel when in 1990 he became business partners with Steve Hewins and his wife, Kathy. Steve would become Eric’s dear friend in life. In 2007, AAA of Northern New England purchased Hewins Travel where Eric stayed until his retirement this spring.
Eric was renowned for his knowledge and love of travel as well as his community involvement. Eric was mindful of his family’s legacy. He proceeded to do his part in his board work as family representative to the Baxter State Park Authority, Maine Historical Society, Olmstead Alliance, USM, MECA, and The Victoria Mansion to name a few. His desire to promote community led him to create a way for nonprofit organizations to build capital and connection though group travel. For over 15 years, Eric, with his trusty sidekick Lonnie, led tours for the Maine Historical Society to a variety of locales including the Baltics, the Nile, Alaska, and the Mekong River.
Eric and Lonnie purchased their home after their commitment ceremony in August of 2001. On July 20, 2013, they married there. Their home was a sanctuary for them and their adored pups. They opened their home and hearts for gatherings to reminisce of travels accomplished, plan the next adventure and most importantly for all to connect to one another. For their friends, it was a place to gather in Eric’s exquisite gardens, savor fine food, and have wide-ranging conversations with an ever-changing cast of characters.
His passing evoked many memories and descriptors from their wide range of friends. So many commented on that smile. Others spoke of his kindness and humor. Most spoke of the love. His response to “I love you” was “I love you more”.
For the last several years, their winter retreat was Merida, Mexico, where they created the same welcoming environment for new friends from the expat community, family, and friends from their many adventures.
Eric was predeceased by Barney and Jayne.
Lonnie and their pups, Yasmine and Czar will miss him every day. Also surviving are his brother, Scott Baxter; and his nephew Griffin, of Manchester, NH; and cousins John R. Baxter, Connie Marlow, and Judy Baxter, and their children. He was loved and is deeply missed by his stepchildren, Meghan and Alex Grabau of Framingham, MA, and Patrick Carey and Elise Pelletier, of Portland. He was absolutely besotted with his grandsons, Cyr and Julian Carey, who had many adventures with Grandpas Eric and Lonnie, including a trip to Mexico last February. And, there is his out-law, Meg Baxter of Cape Elizabeth.