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Dr. Baxter Kimball: 'ever-ardent ruler' who had a heart

Longtime Rochester youth boxing coach understood tough love

By Penny Marshall

For the Post-Bulletin

Art often imitates life. Mick (Burgess Meredith) in the "Rocky" series, Eddie (Morgan Freeman) of "Million Dollar Baby"-- and the late Dr. Baxter "Bax" Kimball as …; himself.

Baxter was a well-known volunteer boxing coach for many years at the Silver Lake Boxing Gym in Rochester. A 1950 high school graduate, he played football and boxed, along with his close friend and longtime Rochester boxing coach Jack O'Connor, while attending Lourdes High School.

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Baxter attended Rochester Junior College and graduated from the University of Minnesota Dental School. Serving as a dentist in the Air Force, he achieved the rank of captain and was stationed in Japan.

Upon discharge he began a successful dental practice in Rochester. It wasn't all work though. Baxter was a private air pilot, coached hockey and football, enjoyed fishing, participated in local civic theater, and above all, he proudly cherished his family -- and his dogs.

In the early 1960s, Baxter started coaching boxing at the Silver Lake Gym alongside O'Connor. O'Connor's sons, Pat and Dan, were gloving up during that time and quickly advancing in the amateur ranks.

Baxter, the "ever-ardent ruler," as described by Jack O'Connor, was there when Pat O'Connor won the Upper Midwest level of National Golden Gloves and traveled to the Pan Am competition.

In later years, Baxter moved with a teetering gait, often sporting his trademark suspenders over a T-shirt. He loved to reminisce about those good times with Jack O'Connor and his sons, along with a light heavyweight he trained from Winona named Tom Van Hoof.

Baxter mastered the art of "tough love" like few people do. A boxing purist, he delivered a litany, like punches in bunches, when it came to critiquing an athlete's performance. Even as they emerged from the ring victorious, he was quick to point out what could have been done better and, oh yes, what was done "totally wrong."

So just how did the athletes react to this stern, relentless and sometimes cantankerous coach? With great love and respect. They knew that if they learned from Baxter, they learned well.

Athletes of all ages quickly grew accustomed to his soft-spoken but pointed words as he often delivered a brutally honest evaluation of their talent. They knew they had gained his approval by a simple lift of his fluffy eyebrows, a gentle smile, or a very slow and deliberate nod of his head.

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One of the things that people who knew Baxter miss most about him is that he was such a great listener. Some would say, "That's because he was planning his argument for when you got done speaking." True, Baxter loved a good debate -- and he was very good at that, too. But he was, indeed, a very good listener.

Baxter was generous, intelligent, tough, yet tenderhearted. He made a positive impact on many lives in and out of the sport of boxing. His many contributions, his friendship and his character will never be forgotten.

Art often does imitate life. During his time, Dr. Baxter Kimball exemplified both.

Penny Marshall, of Rochester, is a youth boxing coach.

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