Alfred and Bee Thaxton’s hearts were always invested in both the community and the people of the Mini-Cassia area. Al and Bee were the classic story of the “boy meets and marries the girl next door.” Alfred Thaxton was the eighth child born to Stephen W. Thaxton and Signora Hansen Thaxton of Heyburn Idaho. Bertha Belle “Bee” Thaxton was the fourth child of seven born to Lee Ellis Higley and Raymonde Marie Wiart Higley, also of Heyburn. Alfred was raised on the farm across the street from Bee’s family’s cattle operation. They both learned early the importance of hard work, responsibility, authenticity and integrity– characteristics they both displayed throughout their lives.
Alfred and Bee were married on July 22, 1942, just after Alfred had enlisted and was about to leave for the war. Alfred served his country as a co-pilot of a B17 better known as, “The Flying Fortress” in World War II. He was in the 569th squadron, division of the 390th Bomb Group. Al flew 25 bombing missions over Germany and was stationed in England. At the end of the war he also flew several missions dropping food and supplies to the starving Dutch in Holland and brought POW’s from Germany to their homes in France.
Of his experience in World War II Al said: “We weren’t there for glory but to do a job. We were proud of the unit we were in. The main goal was to get the job done, to fill the specific assignment and get out of there. We were not children fired with a vision; we were merely young men accepting our times. Some of us fancied the role we played. Others did not. In any case we did not go off into the sky shouting “hosannas.” Alfred remained in the USAF reserves and retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1972.
While Alfred was away at war their first child was born and named after Al, even though she was a girl: Patricia Al Thaxton! When Al returned from the war, Bee and Al moved the small, two room house Bee had been living in on her parent’s farm, to a lot in Heyburn and added on a couple rooms. In 1946 Bee and Al purchased an existing home on Yale Avenue and moved to Burley. There they had two more children, both boys, Gerald Burt and Stephen Craig. Al and Bee remained residents of 1619 Yale Avenue the rest of their lives.
Alfred bought out his brother in law’s painting contracting business in 1949. His “Thaxton Painting Company” employed a crew of twelve or so men and could be seen painting or sand- blasting, the Union Feed Store, the Burley Theater, Cassia National Bank and many, many, homes and buildings in the area.
In 1961 Al and Bee opened “Thaxton’s Painting and Interiors” in the then new Overland Shopping Center. There they continued the contracting business, but also offered a full line of carpets, draperies, wallpaper and other accessories for home decorating , as well as expert advice in decorating. Although neither had formal training as interior decorators, both possessed great talent, skill, and taste in home décor. They were forced to sell the business in 1971, when Al had to undergo open heart surgery. After his recovery, Al worked in sales for a couple other businesses in Burley, and eventually spent his semi-retired years wallpapering homes. Some jobs were contracted through “Inspirations,” a local decorating store, and some independently. Eventually, health issued forced him to retire from this line of work. However, he found less demanding work and service. Al always said he would rather die working than remain idle!
Alfred and Bee were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and donated numerous hours of service in the church. Bee’s time was spent mostly with the youth, and Al’s time was spent in the church music programs and with church welfare assignments.
Alfred will be best remembered for his musical contributions to the community. He possessed a rich tenor voice and sang at hundreds of funerals and weddings in the area. He also played the drums in several different bands over the years, including the Burley Elks “Little German Band,” who performed at several conventions around the country including Sun Valley and Dallas, Texas. He was accomplished on the violin, his favorite instrument, although he did not perform publicly in this capacity. Al began his singing career when young. He received a small scholarship to both Idaho State University and the University of Idaho. While attending these universities he performed in many choirs and operas. Over the years, Al could also be heard in the Elijah Concert, the Messiah Concert, the Singing K’s, and the Valley Singers.
Both Al and Bee loved the arts. Al had his music and Bee did a little painting and sculpturing. They both recognized outstanding talent and attended symphonies, ballets, operas, plays, and other performances of various kinds. As a result, they gave a great deal of time and service to establishing and supporting the Community Concert Association. Al was the vice president for several years and Bee the secretary. Both served in the organization up until their declining years and loved doing so. They also both served with the Mini Cassia Council of the Arts, of which Al was the executive director at one time. Al and Bee were always a classy, cultured couple who wanted to bring a touch of culture and the talents they loved to all people in the community.
Al was a member of the Burley Lions Club, and Bee the Lady Lions. Both spent untold hours of community service in these organizations and had a lot of fun doing so. Al was President, Zone Chairman of District 39W and Deputy District Governor. He was rewarded for his many years of service when he was honored by the Lions in receiving the distinguished and coveted “Melvin Jones Fellow Award, For Dedicated Humanitarian Services.” The Lions also established an “Al Thaxton Music Scholarship Fund,” in his honor. This fund has helped several aspiring musicians in recent years.
Both Bee and Al were avid readers. Al enjoyed historical novels, both fiction and non-fiction. He also read and studied deep religious writings. Bee enjoyed current bestselling books and biographies. She was a long time member of the Cameo Literary Club, as well as being a member of Friends of the Library. She enjoyed giving book reviews when it was her turn, especially books about famous and important persons. At one time Al and Bee combined their interests and talents by making a presentation of the life and music of George Gershwin. Bee gave a review of Robert Rushmore’s book, George Gershwin: The Champion Who Brought Jazz to the Concert Hall and Great Music to Broadway. Her review was interspersed with Alfred singing many of Gershwin’s most memorable songs. Their performance was so well received that they presented it at several clubs and organizations in the area.
For many years, Bee was an avid and accomplished golfer. She belonged to Burley Ladies Amateur Golf Association and won several awards including one in 1957 for “2nd Flight Best Ball Tournament.” Bee also planned and implemented many, Class of ’39 reunions for Heyburn High School, up to and including the 5oth Year Reunion. Bee loved decorating her home, keeping her yard beautiful and full of flowers, entertaining with the “dinner club” and “bridge club”– as well as with family and friends. She was an excellent cook and presented an elegant table. Bee’s years of service to family and community all speak highly of her– but her greatest accolades should come from the support and love with which she stood behind Alfred’s many and varied contributions to the community.
Alfred Thaxton continued to serve the community of Burley up until his last year of good health. He was elected to the City Council in 1995, receiving the most votes. He served as city councilman for almost two full terms. He was instrumental in Burley’s achievement of Tree City USA status. In 2002, the city of Burley planted a grove of trees in his honor on Arbor Day in the Kiwanis Park. Mayor Doug Manning said of Alfred: “He was a progressive empathetic advocate for the business people of the community. He was always mindful of the local business owners and wanted the city departments to divide their business among the local merchants.” Manning also said: “Al, coming from a generation of people who were conservative and not inclined to move forward aggressively, was an advocate for the city and wanted to provide for the future generations.”
In keeping with his love of country and respect for those who served it, Al spent his last four years as the Mini-Cassia Veterans Service Officer, a job he loved doing. He said of his position there: “My main function is just to serve the veterans.” But, his administrator commented in one interview with the local paper, saying: “In the past five months (under Al’s supervision) we’ve seen more work from Mini-Cassia than we’ve seen in the past five years. We’re seeing more claims for widows and veterans who need assistance.” Al’s compassion and respect for all people served him well in this capacity.
Because of their love of Burley and the surrounding area, and because of their “hearts”, Alfred and Bee Thaxton have been exemplary contributors to life in the community. In being so, they sought no fame, fortune, nor glory. Indeed, they would be the first to say that what they did do was live lives of true fulfillment and love.