Jean Taylor Baxter

SCARBOROUGH – Jean Taylor Baxter, died on May 22, 2021 at the Piper Shores Retirement Community in Scarborough. She was 96.

Jean was born in Arlington, Mass., the first child of William Henry and Laura Bell Taylor. A graduate of Melrose High School and Wellesley College, class of 1946, Jean went on to earn her master’s degree in art history from American University in Washington, D.C., and, at the age of 63, her doctoral degree from the University of Maryland. Prior to pursuing her graduate education, Jean served as one of the founders of the Folger Shakespeare Library docent program, “…still going strong over 50 years later.” Jean’s work at the Folger and later academic accomplishments pay tribute to her strength and (quiet) determination to complete her own “unfinished business”, create her own space, while married to a dynamic, unorthodox – sometimes exhausting – Episcopal clergyman and raising four children.

Jean met the late Reverend William MacNeil Baxter, Bill, – on horseback – her senior year at Wellesley. They were married for 67 years, together through seminary, his ministries at the Church of St. Michael’s and St. George’s in St. Louis and St. Mark’s on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and his ventures beyond. Bill died in 2014. He, Jean reflected at the time, “was always pushing boundaries – that was sometimes good and sometimes not good.” Marriage to him was an adventure, she said, “sometimes painful – but never dull.”

Fortunately, Jean was a good sport. Summers in Gilford, N.H., on Lake Winnipesaukee, in the mountains, among the dairy farms, where Jean’s parents had settled, were a constant while the children were growing up. Several of those summers, Jean and the children occupied an old one-room schoolhouse on Gunstock Mountain that Bill had found to rent. It had no electricity, no running water except for a hose from the rain barrel into the kitchen sink, an ancient ice box requiring regular feeding with 50 pound ice blocks, and a four-seater outhouse. Bill joined the family for one of the three summer months. “It was beautiful and quaint” Jean said, “but not the easiest place for a mother, alone, with four small children, though – again – an adventure.” Jean, who hated camping, did draw the line at Bill’s suggestion one year that the family take a road trip across the country. “The only way I am going across this country,” she said, “is from Hilton to Hilton in my pink marabou bed jacket.”

In 1985, Jean and Bill moved from Washington, D.C. to Portland. Both remained active, Jean teaching at the University of Southern Maine, Bill causing trouble, pressing the extended mission of the church. They enjoyed summers at their Sebasco cottage with children, grandchildren, neighbors, seminary classmates and other life-long friends. In those years and after they moved to Piper Shores in 2007, they remained steadfast in their fidelity to their alma maters, Wellesley and Amherst. With enthusiasm, they attended every reunion they could in order to reconnect and refresh their thinking. (Jean, , by then in a wheelchair, attended her 70th and loved every minute of it.)

Jean’s years at Piper Shores were full because she made them so. She found new friends whom she came to love, people she found interesting. Some she met in the normal course of residential life; some were her companions in the poetry, writing and Shakespeare reading groups she enjoyed; some were staff members and caregivers whose lives, personalities and talents engaged her. Many shared her love of books – circulated among them as enthusiasms and curiosities inspired. Jean always wanted others to read a book she found important or excellent or mind-changing – or just fun to read. Jean read her way through the enforced isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her recommended readings from recent years – and weeks -included: “On Being Mortal” (Atul Gwande); “Leonardo da Vinci” (Walter Isaacson); “Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris” (Christopher Kemp); “The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” (Oliver Burkeman); “Between the World and Me” (Ta-Nehisi Coates); “The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America” (Leo Marx); “The Woman Behind the New Deal: the Life and Legacy of Francis Perkins” (Kirstein Downey); and “The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” (Isabel Wilkerson). She also read, religiously, the Portland Press Herald, the Sunday New York Times and curated articles from the Washington Post.

Always politically engaged, Jean became passionate in the last years. It was her ardent wish and determination to live long enough to see a new president inaugurated in January 2021. She did and he was.

Jean is survived by her four children Grae Baxter of Mitchellville, Md., Gary Baxter of Washington, D.C., Rebecca Owen of Glen Ellyn, Ill. (Robert), Anne Baxter of New York City; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; her sister, Claire Goldman of Philadelphia (Richard), her brother, Richard Taylor of Bethel, (Sally); two nieces and a nephew.

Jean will join her husband and parents in Dunstan Cemetery, Scarborough. A graveside memorial service will be held at 10 a.m., July 15. On later dates, services celebrating Jean’s life will be held at St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland and St. Mark’s in Washington.

Condolences may be expressed online at:

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a contribution in Jean’s name to Wellesley College (, the Folger Shakespeare Library (, or Maine Audubon Society (

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