We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Cotrell Willow Ridge Funeral & Cremation Services
Dr. William Louis “Bill” Traxel, Jr., 83, Poplar Bluff’s first board-certified ophthalmologist and a talented musician, died Wednesday, Sept. 14, at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis surrounded by his family.
Bill joined the staff at Kneibert Clinic in 1972 and retired from medical practice in 1998. With an insatiable intellectual curiosity, he has pursued a wide range of interests since his retirement.
Born on March 17, 1939, in Maysville, Ky., Bill took piano lessons from several different teachers as a child, his only formal music training. As early as the sixth grade he and friends formed a small band and played for school dances in the Maysville area.
An accomplished alto saxophone player, he was a member of the marching band at Northwestern University, where he took a B.S. degree in biology in 1961.
After earning a medical degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1965, Bill completed a residency in internal medicine at Vanderbilt. He then joined the United States Navy and spent two and one-half years as a flight surgeon at the New River Naval Air Station near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. There he cared for Navy and Marine pilots during the Vietnam Conflict. During his service in the Navy, he also spent a six-month tour aboard ship as a flight surgeon.
After separation from his Navy duty with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, he changed his focus in medicine, completed a three-year residency in ophthalmology at the University of Michigan and moved to Poplar Bluff.
Bill immediately joined the Chancel Choir at First United Methodist Church, where he was a soloist and mainstay in the bass section for 46 years. He composed several works of sacred music, notably a Christmas cantata titled “A King Is Born,” which the choir sang in 1978 and again in 1988.
He joined the Symphonic Band at Three Rivers Community College as an alto saxophonist. Discovering the band had no oboe player at the time, he bought an oboe and taught himself to play it. Using his largely self-taught piano skills, he presented a number of classical piano concerts in Poplar Bluff over the years.
Always interested in the fine arts, he taught himself to paint in oils. A seascape from his Navy days, boats in the harbor at Swansborough, N.C., hangs in the television room of the family home.
Bill authored five books on a wide range of topics. His interest in the legendary Welsh Indians sparked many months of extensive travel and research that resulted in a book titled “Footprints of the Welsh Indians,” which was published by Algora Publishing. The Welsh Indians, according to widespread legend and anecdotal evidence, were believed to be descendants of the followers of Prince Madoc of Wales, who explored in America in the 1100s and settled in Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.
After his retirement from medicine, Bill taught human anatomy and physiology at Three Rivers Community College. Displeased with available textbooks, he wrote and published a textbook on anatomy designed specifically for his TRCC students.
Bill had a lifelong interest in volcanoes and visited many on his travels. He wrote a book on earth science and late in life became a member of the Spring River Gem and Mineral Club at Cherokee Village, Ark., where he and his wife had a vacation home. In addition to his historical and technical books, Bill also wrote two novels.
Bill chaired the Poplar Bluff Community Concert Association for several years. While serving as president he experienced the unpleasant decision to disband the organization when local financial support dwindled to the point annual concerts could not be booked.
While attending the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine at Nashville, Bill met Mary Walker of Chattanooga, another Vanderbilt graduate who was teaching school. They were married on July 9, 1966.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, William Louis and Clara Brashears Traxel.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Mary Walker Traxel; two sons, Richard Louis Traxel (Karen), Lees Summit, Mo., and Benjamin Frederick Traxel (Madawn), Cape Girardeau; five grandchildren, Kayla Traxel, Abigail Traxel, Samuel Traxel, Henry Traxel and Beau Traxel; three brothers, Charles Traxel (Libby), Joseph Traxel (Libby) and Steven Traxel, all of Maysville, Ky.; and one sister, Lucia Cochran, Jacksonville, Fla.
A funeral visitation is scheduled for 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 3, in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church, where Bill had been a member for 50 years. The funeral will follow at 11:30 with the Rev. David Stewart officiating.
Burial with military honors will be scheduled later at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Bloomfield.
The family has requested that any memorials be in the form of donations to the First United Methodist Church, Poplar Bluff Municipal Library, Margaret Harwell Art Museum or a charity of the donor’s choice.
First United Methodist Church
Poplar Bluff MO 63901
Margaret Harwell Art Museum
Poplar Bluff MO
Poplar Bluff Public Library
Charity of Choice