April 24, 1928 — Jan. 21, 2016

Dr. James “Jim” Ronald Baggett, Ph.D., completed an epic life on Jan. 21, 2016. 

Born on April 24, 1928, to James and Laura Baggett in Boise, Idaho, Jim began his grand adventure. The Great Depression arrived about the same time life began for Jim so his parents were working hard to scratch out a living. Eventually settling in Burley, Idaho, where Jim was joined by a younger brother, Keith, who would share many of his adventures. 

A life twist occurred soon when at the age of 4, Jim’s mom, Laura, died from complications in pregnancy. Dad and the two boys moved in immediately with Jim’s grandparents. The boys were well loved by them.

Work centered on agriculture, harvesting potatoes or working in a feed mill. Jim recounts a meager homestead where there was no running water or electricity and ice was delivered by wagon. Still, Jim did not know they were poor. Plenty of food was provided by raising livestock and chickens as well as growing a vegetable garden. In 1935, his dad was remarried to Ethel Stimpson. During the ensuing school years, Jim received a real introduction to farming on his grandfather’s farm with the aid of workhorses. He milked cows, learned to thin and hoe sugar beets, weed beans and harness horses. At 10 years old he remembers a fear of being smashed between two work horses as he was struggling to get the harness over their necks.

Jim recalls trading work with the Butler farm across the road, “Putting up hay with Keith, and I tromping the wagon loads. After the first and second cutting, Mr. Butler gave us each a silver dollar, the most we had ever earned. My two dollars were carefully spent on a $1 watch and a Kodak Baby Brownie Camera.”

Jim and Keith excelled in the classroom as they entered their teenage years, learning all aspects of farming as well. World War II broke out as they were learning how to farm with a tractor instead of horses. After graduating high school, Jim enlisted in the Navy for two years, serving as a Yeoman. Stationed in Guam, he benefited from his typing skills by being assigned to the office of the Commandant of the Naval Base.

In 1948, after his stint in the Navy, Jim traveled home and enrolled at the University of Idaho and majored in horticulture.

During his junior year, he met his future brother-in-law, Mark Martin, a fellow horticulture student. The two became fast friends. Jim ended up spending the summer with Mark’s family where he met Janice Martin. The two were married Sept. 8 that year. The newlyweds traveled back to Moscow where Jim completed his senior year and graduated from Idaho State with a degree in horticulture.

After a summer of working for a seed company, Jim and Jan traveled to Corvallis to attend graduate school at Oregon State College in the fall of 1952. It was here that Jim and Jan were reunited with brother Keith and his wife, Audrey. They lived near each other as Keith pursued his pharmacy degree. The two couples were soon in the hospital together having their first babies, Jimmy and Charlie.

Jim was hired by Oregon State as a vegetable breeder where he became well-known for introducing varieties of vegetables that thrive in the Pacific Northwest. His work has benefited the home gardener as well as master gardeners and commercial farmers. For 30 years Jim also enjoyed judging vegetables at the Oregon State Fair. He has received several awards including the Green Thumb Award from the Oregon Master Gardeners Association, the National Food Producers Award for Raw Products Research (1978), the Northwest Food Processors Association 1990 Distinguished Service Award, and he was inducted into the University of Idaho Alumni Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1996 the Baggett-Frazier Vegetable Breeder Professorship was created to continue the tradition of excellence demonstrated by Jim at Oregon State University.

Jim enjoyed a life of hobbies that was always changing and going strong. His most extensive hobbies included: rock hounding and lapidary; pottery, which led to a purchase of a wheel and developing his own glazes; restoring and printing photos of family history, and of course horticulture. The Baggett property has been a never-ending array of ornamental and vegetable gardens, his work and pleasure which he never tired of. It was enjoyed by all. He provided many family and friends with tomato plants and produce as well as flowers from his vast supply of dahlias and zinnias.

His legacy and the hobby that will continue to give throughout the generations are the family histories that he wrote — nine books in all — following every branch of our family tree.

Jim was a faithful husband and father, and a man of humility and integrity. He pursued tasks with vigor and excellence. He had a strong work ethic, never leaving a job unfinished. Though a man of few words, his intellect, wit, kindness, hobbies, and diligence have enriched the world around him. He will be greatly missed.

Jim is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Jan; and their four children, James (Kim), Stanley (Debbie), Mitchell (Mary Beth), and Michelle (Marlin Seefeldt). Jim is also survived by 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. We would also like to remember his late daughter-in-law, Pam.

A private ceremony will be held at a later date.

Donations can be made in Jim’s honor to Samaritan Evergreen Hospice and the American Cancer Society in care of McHenry Funeral Home, 206 N.W. Fifth St., Corvallis, OR 97330.

Please leave your thoughts and memories for the family at www.mchenryfuneralhome.com.

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