Neil McClelland Baird, 68, died Friday, December 30, 2011, on the way to Decatur Memorial Hospital.
Neil was born on May 18, 1943, in Paso Robles CA to John H. Baird and Frances Neumeyer Baird. At the time of his birth, his father was serving in the U.S. Army. Neil attended Decatur Public Schools and graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 1961.
He then attended Millikin University where he majored in biology and graduated in 1965. It was at Millikin where he met his wife, Karen Lepp, who was also majoring in biology. They were married in Collinsville IL on August 20, 1966. Neil was always proud of his Millikin heritage. Both of his parents were Millikin graduates, and his grandparents on the Baird side attended the Millikin Academy. Neil's graduate training was in the anatomy department of the University of Minnesota medical school. He received his PhD in anatomy in the summer of 1971. In the fall of 1970 he joined Millikin's biology department where he taught for 35 years until his retirement as emeritus faculty in 2005. He was always proud of his many students who went on to work in various medical fields, and he was always pleased to hear later that Millikin had prepared these students very well for their professional schools.
Neil was a member of Central Christian Church where he served as both deacon and elder. He was recently elected deacon emeritus. He also previously served as president of Disciple Men for the Illinois-Wisconsin Region of Disciples of Christ Church. He enjoyed reading current books on religion and was always seeking new insights into his religious faith. Neil was an honorary life member of the Association of College and University Biology Educators, a group he served as both president and program chairman. He also belonged to the National Center for Science Education.
In his retirement Neil joined Golden K Kiwanis and served as president in 2010. He was the current president and newsletter editor of the Westend Neighborhood Association (WENA). Neil was a volunteer at Scovill Zoo and enjoyed taking mobile zoos out into the community. He was a Friend of the Decatur Public Library and always looked forward to Books Between Bites as an audience member and as a presenter. He was also a member of the Decatur Bicycle Club.
Neil loved reading, biking with friends, listening to music, playing the piano, genealogy, hiking in the woods, and spending time with family and friends.
He is survived by his wife Karen; son Matthew Baird of Madison WI; daughter Kathleen Baird of Madison WI; father John H. Baird of Decatur; two brothers, John H. Baird, Jr. (Jan) of Decatur and Carl E. Baird (Nellie) of Arlington WA; and one sister Ruth Ann Francis (Ted) of Burlington IA. He is also survived many beloved cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his mother. Neil was diagnosed with carcinoid cancer (neuroendocrine tumors) nearly 16 years ago. In 15 of those years he was in excellent health. The family would like to thank Dr. Thomas O'Dorisio of the University of Iowa and Dr. James Wade of Cancer Care for the excellent treatment they gave Neil over the years. In addition the family thanks the 5100 nursing staff at Decatur Memorial Hospital for the excellent care he received during his three week stay in the hospital.
Neil was a loving, gentle, and conscientious man whose energy and enthusiasm for life and learning remained strong throughout his life. He will be missed greatly. Always the anatomy professor, he has donated his body to medical science.
Obituary written by family members.