Melva Jane (Mutch) Baxter
May 10, 1931 to April 27, 2017
Melva Jane (Mutch) Baxter, devoted mother, loyal friend and colleague and beloved dental hygienist who practiced for over 56 years in the Lansing area, went to be with her Lord on April 27, 2017. Melva was born in Muir, Michigan to Alexander and Viola Mutch, who taught her the value of hard work, persistence, and the pride for her Scottish heritage. From the 1950's on she lived in the Lansing area, eventually moving into the home her parent's retired to after selling their farm.
Melva was born on Stone Road, northeast of Muir, on a large farm and fruit orchard her parents operated. As a child she worked with her parents and her older brother Jim on the tasks a large farming operation requires. In school she excelled at learning her lessons, even though most years, it required a several mile hike each way to attend the local schools. As a teenager she raised a steer by herself, who won a blue ribbon at the fair for animal husbandry.
After high school, Melva was accepted into the University of Michigan dental hygiene program, graduating in 1950 in the top 10% of her class, which qualified her for the honorary fraternity, Sigma Phi Alpha, Nu Chapter, of which she remained a member until her death.
While still a student, in the spring of 1949, Melva and her classmates attended the Annual Meeting of the Michigan State Dental Hygienists' Society in Detroit. It was there she first met Frances Shook, the then- President of the Michigan Dental Hygienists' Association (MDHA), a fateful meeting that resulted in a 50 year friendship and countless active roles in the MDHA for over 60 years, including Treasurer, council member, and then both Historian and Photographer for 24 years. In her retirement, Melva was often consulted by her colleagues for historic information and advice. In the early 1970s, she was appointed to serve with the Michigan Board of Dentistry as a dental hygiene candidate examiner for a 3 year term. She made significant contributions to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry's Sindecuse Museum archives, serving as an advisor for the exhibit, "Dental Hygiene, A Century of Progress" in 2013.
Melva served as a Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor for 11 years while her son was active in that organization. Melva was a charter member of the Lansing-area chapter of the MDHA, Central District Dental Hygienists' Society (CDDHS, now C-RDH). She served as Central's Trustee to the MDHA.
Melva admitted she wanted to work in order to travel the world. She was selected to be a member of the first delegation of dental hygienists to travel to China in 1981, only two years after relations with that country were normalized. She maintained contact with friends at the university there, and returned two more times, including serving as the leader of a dental hygienist delegation again in 1991. Melva also took great pride in her Scottish roots and maintained a close relationship with her family in Scotland, making many trips there during her adult life.
Melva was also a professional photographer. Perfecting her skills with courses at the New York Institute of Photography, she was commissioned for books, periodicals, calendars and greeting cards over the years. Her photographic work was exhibited in Lansing, and in 1959 Melva was the official photographer for the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Her passion for this art form is shared by her son David.
A few of Melva's awards include: Life Membership, the Frances Shook award for lifetime achievement, and Dental Hygienist of the Year honors, all from the Michigan Dental Hygienists' Association; the Distinguished Service Award by the Honorary Fraternity, Sigma Phi Alpha; and the University of Michigan Dental Hygiene Alumni Organization's Outstanding UM Dental Hygiene Alumna award; a concurrent resolution by the Michigan Legislature honoring her life and career.
She also has given back to the community, having served on numerous local boards and committees, including Head Start, Habitat for Humanity, and for many years volunteered to assist low-income citizens complete their income tax forms. She attended monthly meetings and remained active in her local dental hygiene chapter even after retirement and served on the scholarship selection committee for student dental hygiene students at Lansing Community College.
Melva was a faithful and active member of East Lansing's Christian Science Church. She was actively involved with many church matters, serving on committees, and volunteering as a staffer at the C.S. Reading Room. And with her large garden behind her house, she often picked fresh flowers to bring for the Sunday services.
Melva was preceded in death by her husband of 36 years Jack, and is survived by her son David and his wife Karen.
The world is a better place because of Melva Baxter because of her unselfishness and devotion to her family and patients. In fact, after working for almost 30 years, her patients showed unprecedented loyalty when she moved, with very little notice, from one dental practice to another. There were over 200 patients who found out where Melva's new place of employment was, and transferred immediately to the new office—totally unsolicited! She retired while providing dental hygiene services to the grandchildren of many of her first patients.
Funeral services will be held Thursday, May 4, at 12 p.m., at Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes 1730 East Grand River Avenue, East Lansing. Visitation 1 hour before service.
In lieu of flowers those desiring may make contributions to Hospice of Michigan www.hom.org
Published by Lansing State Journal on Apr. 30, 2017.