Joy and Tom Baird agree that a “life of service” is the most fulfilling life. Individually and together, they have made a difference in so many lives through their years of service to the Montrose community and beyond.
Married in 1980, the Bairds have three children each and eight grandchildren, but their extended family includes all the Rotary exchange students, 22 third-year medical students, and the young professionals in 15 group study exchanges, who have stayed in their guest suite. Add the seniors who participated in the senior games held in Montrose, and those who received Meals on Wheels delivered for over 20 years, or had their houses modified by Tom through the Handyman Program, so they could stay in their homes.
Also the friends over 17 years who vacationed on the “Lazy Dazy,” their house boat in Lake Powell; the children who received bikes from the Rotary Bicycle program; the participants in fishing derbies and winter carnivals; third-grade students who received dictionaries; and the families who received homes through Habitat for Humanity, built with the help of Joy and Tom, and you have a very large extended family and grateful community.
Joy was born and raised in Medford, Oregon. She raised her children in Redlands, California, where she volunteered as a Girl Scout leader and Cub Scout den mother, was active in the PTA, Community Chest and the Red Cross. She worked as a school secretary, student finance officer, and librarian at the local high school and played tennis. She moved to Montrose in 1980 when she married Tom.
Joy was the “face” of Montrose as a volunteer with the Chamber of Commerce. Part of her duties was to send out information packets. With every packet she sent out, she always included a letter pointing out different features of the city that might help the family. When they arrived in Montrose, they would stop at the chamber and ask to meet the nice lady who had taken the time to write them a personal note. Joy is still a wonderful ambassador for the community.
One of her passions over the years has been tennis. She became assistant coach for girl’s junior tennis (beginners) at the high school, a volunteer position she held for seven years. She organized and won several tennis events at the Western Slope Senior Games in 1990, including first place in doubles, mixed doubles, and singles. “Tennis is good, clean exercise. I like being outdoors and, unlike other competitive athletic activities, tennis is a lifetime sport,” she said.
Tom was born and raised on a Kansas farm homesteaded by his grandfather. “It was a ‘diversified’ farm,” he said. “We raised everything, crops and farm animals.” He attended a country school through the eighth grade and went on to graduate from Kansas State University with a degree in agricultural engineering. He spent two years in the military and then worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Utah and Idaho.
He came to Montrose in 1967, where he worked as the district engineer for the Bureau of Land Management. After retirement, he worked for Buckhorn-Geotech as a contract administrator, building bridges and other projects in San Miguel and Ouray counties.
Tom said, “I made the plan when I was 33 to retire at age 50. I thought I could use my Rotary connections to go to Third World countries and build water or sewer systems. I found that if water systems were built for nomadic people, they settled near the system and removed all the vegetation in the area. That was not a good thing.”
He added, “I found there was plenty of volunteer work to do here in Montrose and I made a promise to help anyone that had a need and truly couldn’t take care of it themselves. The work has been very rewarding, and I have not regretted a moment of it.”
“I worked on the very first house built in Montrose for Habitat for Humanity and on the last two for a total of 13 homes. I also organized several work-days for the Rotarians with as many as 12 to 15 people working all day.”
The Bairds served on the board of directors of the Ute Indian Museum for 12 years and many other nonprofit boards. Tom has helped with construction projects at the Museum of the Mountain West, the Montrose Library, Heirlooms for Hospice store, and projects for the Community Foundation.
A 35-year member of P.E.O. sisterhood, Joy has been hostess for the past ten years for its bed and breakfast program, welcoming over 80 couples to their guest suite. She makes breakfast every morning for her guests. Through this program, the Bairds have contributed more than $4,000 to P.E.O. scholarship programs.
Tom is coming up on 50 years as a member of the Rotary Club. He served as president from 1979-1980 and was one of two recipients of a Lifetime Service Award in 2009-2010, along with Dennis Devore. Tom has participated in most of the Rotary projects.
Since the Bairds’ retirement, they traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and the British Isles, researching their roots. They also visited Australia, New Zealand, South America, Norway and Denmark and enjoyed several scuba-diving trips to the Caribbean. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with a cruise to Alaska in 2005.
In speaking of their life of service, Joy said, “I would like to see more people involved in volunteering in the community. Sharing what you can do is so important.”
Tom shared two quotes: “I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good I can do.” (unknown author) And from Rabindranath Tagore, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted, and behold, service was joy.”
Tom and Joy Baird have given so much service and joy to others. They truly are two of this community’s Golden Treasures.
Arlyn Macdonald is a freelance writer for the Montrose Daily Press and author of four books.