Palo Alto Online - Lasting Memories - Joseph Lyle Baldwin's memorial

Joseph Lyle Baldwin
Aug. 26, 1931-March 26, 2024
Palo Alto, California

Surrounded by family and friends, Joseph L. (Joe) Baldwin, born August 26, 1931, died peacefully at his home in Palo Alto on March 26, 2024.

A longtime resident of Palo Alto, in his retirement Joe advocated for and helped to lead local initiatives to provide solutions and supports for unhoused individuals and families. He served as President of the Urban Ministry, as Co-Chair of the Community Working Group to develop the Palo Alto Opportunity Center in 2006, and as a member of the Downtown Streets Team. In addition to these roles, he was a strong voice in opposing legislation that criminalized homelessness, such as the 1997 "Sit-Lie Ban," and in advocating for public toilets in downtown Palo Alto. He believed strongly in the power and obligation of local government to solve local problems, and was a frequent writer of opinions and letters to the editor, often asserting, "if any community can solve its homelessness challenge, it should be Palo Alto." He was a vestryperson, and Senior Warden, at All Saints' Episcopal Church, where he was a member since 1974, and he also volunteered with the Diocese of El Camino Real.

After working in New York City and Chicago, Joe came west in 1973, relocating his family to Palo Alto from Buffalo, NY while working as a financial executive. He was at that time married to Mary Burt Blume (Holmes), the mother of his daughters. For much of his working life he served as Vice President and Treasurer of Arcata Corporation, a printing and forest products company then headquartered on Sand Hill Road. He had embarked on a career in financial management at US Gypsum, and also subsequently worked in investor relations at Crown Zellerbach. He studied political science and law, attending Roanoke College in Salem, VA before graduating with his B.A. from Duke University in 1953 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and receiving his J.D. in 1956 from the University of Virginia Law School. He served in the U.S. Army for two years in 1956-58. In 1980 he attended the Advanced Management Program of the Harvard Business School.

Born in Washington, DC, Joe was the son of Joseph Lyle Baldwin, Sr., an attorney for the Association of American Railroads, and Claire Anderson (Black) Baldwin, a teacher and homemaker. His younger brother Gordon (b.1938) died at age thirty-eight, a devastating loss that stayed with the family. They were raised primarily in Alexandria, VA, where Joe graduated from George Washington High School in 1949. A brief stint outside Chicago in his youth left him a lifetime Cubbies fan. His parents retired to Roanoke, VA, where Joe visited often, frequenting City Market, the Roanoke Weiner stand, and Hotel Roanoke, and endorsing the family myth of a man named Edgar who presided over the Mill Mountain Star. Joe had a lifelong love of music, and played the piano regularly, from childhood throughout his later life, including many happy years residing at Channing House in Palo Alto. His infectious enthusiasm for singalongs, ragtime, and favorites from the American songbook delighted his family and friends.

Joe will be remembered for dedicating himself to family, friends and community. His dinner parties, which he hosted with abundant generosity and where he unstintingly shared his collection of fine California wines, were legendary. Joe always enjoyed a good game of poker and the moniker “Buffalo Joe” followed him from the local card room to Reno, a trip he continued to take well into his final years. Joe’s love of the road, rails, and waterways of the U.S. led him to traverse the country many times, including epic trips to Colorado where he climbed Long’s Peak first with Gordon in 1955 and again in 1979 as a tribute to his brother; and along the Mississippi where he was a regular on the American Queen steamboat. Joe enjoyed getting to know everyone around him and he made fast friendships wherever he went, often returning home to regale his family with detailed stories of famous and not so famous people.

Wherever he went, Joe dazzled friends and passersby alike with his daily mastery of the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. Joe kept up the dedicated epistolary tradition of his parents, writing weekly letters to each of his daughters, often enclosing articles and ephemera he believed they would find of interest, annotated and underlined with not-to-be-missed information. At some point a daughter called these enclosures “pieces of leather,” and henceforth his letters and their contents became known as “POLs,” always posted with love, and, if you were lucky, a three cent vintage stamp. Joe’s love and abiding respect for U.S. history and bibliography led him to become a member of the Manuscript Society; he sought out and eventually acquired a full collection of U.S. presidential autographs which he exhibited in downtown Palo Alto in 2013 as “44 Presidents,” in addition to his collection of rare books. In spite of these robust collections, Joe cultivated a taste for the ephemeral. He liked moments best. A Giants game at the Stick, a classic double feature at the Stanford Theater, or a “number one sitch” parking spot outside his favorite restaurant. He imparted to his daughters his reverent affection for gatherings and occasions, whether large or small. He instilled in his grandchildren a love of history, jigsaw puzzles, and a “good game,” and was epically supportive of all their endeavors from the ball games to the valedictory speeches. When he held them as infants he liked to remind them of a favorite phrase of his father’s, cautioning them with a smile that, “It’s a realistic world.”

He is survived by his three daughters, Pamela Baldwin, of Arlington, MA; Kate Baldwin, of New Orleans, LA; and Elizabeth Baldwin, of Monterey, CA; son-in-law Brian Edwards, also of New Orleans; nephew Mark Baldwin, of Bowie, MD; and six grandchildren: Oliver, Olympia, Theodore, and Charlotte Baldwin Edwards, and Genevieve and Louisa Baldwin.

Tags: veteran, business, public service

2 entries Submit a remembrance
From Anneke Dempsey
April 5, 2024
An impressive obituary for an impressive human being. Rest in peace, Joe. Ray and Anneke
Memorial service
There will be a memorial service and celebration of life on Saturday, June 15, 11:00 at All Saints Episcopal Church, Palo Alto. In lieu of flowers, donations may be offered in Joe’s memory to the Downtown Streets Team Food Closet or the Palo Alto Opportunity Center.
Make a donation
In lieu of flowers, donations may be offered in Joe’s memory to the Downtown Streets Team Food Closet or the Palo Alto Opportunity Center.

About this site     Contact us