Hugh Baxley, the numbers man, retires after 62 years

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

Most people wouldn't want to work 62 years, but for Plaquemine's Hugh Baxley, it is a labor of love. He just retired on October 15, at age 86, from the full service accounting firm, Baxley and Associates which he established originally as Hugh F. Baxley, CPA. But, he’s still hanging on to his personal office at the firm and will be doing consulting work for several healthcare clients.

He may be 86-years-old, but Baxley doesn't look or act like it. He still plays tennis and goes bowling, still travels often with his wife, Gwen, to visit their children in North Carolina and Georgia; and is still active in his church, First Baptist Church in Plaquemine. And, through all these years, he still loves numbers.

Baxley's company has been a staple in Plaquemine since 1961, offering personal and business financial consulting, tax returns, audits, and bookkeeping. In fact, Baxley has audited the books for the City of Plaquemine since 1962!

The firm will continue, as Baxley has sold his stock in the firm to two long-time employees, Margaret Pritchard, CPA, who has been with the firm 36 years and is now the managing partner; and Matthew Berthelot, CPA, who has been with the firm 11 years. The rest of the staff will continue in their jobs.

"I just always loved numbers," Baxley said. "My Dad loved math, and even though he only had an 8th grade education, he was very good at it. When I was taking a PhD level math course at LSU one year, I told him about a math problem that was troubling to me. He got the book, figured out the problem and told me how he came up with the answer. I got my love of numbers from him."

A native of Plaquemine, Baxley had just finished his accounting degree at LSU when he was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1955. He spent the next two years on a ship, and he married his sweetheart, Gwen Didier, before being discharged in 1957. He got an interview with a large New Orleans accounting firm when they were returning to Louisiana after his discharge. He got the job during the interview, and they moved to New Orleans.

"I stayed a year, but we just didn't like living in New Orleans, so we moved home," he said. He ended up with a Baton Rouge accounting firm for a year, and then took a position with the State of Louisiana Budget Office, a move that really set the stage for his business. "We prepared the state budget, and I handled all the state hospitals," he said. "At that time, there were a lot of them all over the state." He passed his Certified Public Accountant exam, and he decided in 1961 to open his own practice with a partner, Harry Swetman.

Swetman didn't stick with the firm long, deciding it was not what he wanted, but Baxley was just getting started. He had been asked by the La. Department of Hospitals to handle their budget for six months while they performed a job search, and that experience gave him more expertise in the healthcare industry. He also got work with Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, and his practice was building quickly.

Through his work, a large corporation based in Nashville that owned 50 companies became impressed, and offered him a lucrative job in New York. But by this time the Baxley's had three children and the couple decided to stay in Plaquemine to raise their kids. From then on he worked on developing his local practice.

"We do a lot of governmental work for agencies across the state, but healthcare consulting has been my favorite work," he said. He stuck with doing work for Children's Hospital in New Orleans for several years, but eventually gave it up because of the drives to New Orleans. Still, his experience in healthcare continued with work for the La. Nursing Home Association and numerous medical facilities. Through the years, he continued extensive study at LSU, and also received his certification as a Personal Financial Specialist and CVA, (Certified Valuation Analyst).

While he was building his accounting firm, Baxley was also active in the community. He was the treasurer and an active deacon for First Baptist Church for more than 50 years, served in officer positions with the Rotary Club, including as president, and worked for many years on the Board of Directors of the Iberville Chamber of Commerce. He still teaches Sunday school at First Baptist Church.

He has been an active tennis, table-tennis player and bowler in leagues, and still enjoys these sports. His wife, Gwen, who has also worked with the firm in past years, retired from her business as a financial advisor several years ago. Gwen remains active in the Plaquemine Garden Club, as well as First Baptist Church Plaquemine.

They continue to make extended trips to North Carolina to visit their children and three grandchildren, and Baxley has found both tennis and bowling groups there that he plays with and enjoys. They are planning more trips in the future, and Baxley says he'll continue his healthcare consulting.

Now that he has retired, Baxley says he has no intention of becoming a couch potato. "I don't plan on sitting around," he said. "I guess that's one reason I've waited so long to retire, but I plan on staying busy." For this numbers man, he's just planning on adding more good times to his list of activities.

Contributed by the City of Plaquemine