Brent Baskfield, an executive who served Northwest Airlines under three chief executives, died on June 18 at the age of 74.
A son, Tyler Baskfield, said his father died of complications resulting from pancreatic cancer, surrounded by family, at the Mayo Clinic.
Baskfield, a native of St. Paul and graduate of the University of Minnesota, joined Northwest in 1976 as public relations manager. He was promoted to vice president, responsible for global media relations, in 1980.
Baskfield worked for three chief executives: Don Nyrop, Joe Lapensky and Steve Rothmeier. Northwest Airlines, which grew organically and through acquisition of neighboring Republic Airlines in 1986, long was known for its domestic and international route structure, safety, efficiency, a conservative balance sheet and steady profitability.
None of the three chief executives Baskfield served was enamored of the media.
Retired Star Tribune reporter-editor John Oslund covered Northwest in the 1980s and 1990s.
"Northwest's default position in those years was just to stonewall the press and not return calls, particularly when labor relations were involved," Oslund recalled. "When Brent took over press relations, things improved somewhat. He urged me to call whenever I needed information.
" 'I am always available for no comment,' Baskfield told me. And he was."
Matt Gonring, a Chicago-area communications executive who was hired in 1980 at Northwest, recalled that Baskfield was a gentleman, committed to family, company and the St. Paul community.
"Brent was a wonderful adviser to leaders," recalled Gonring, who left Northwest to work for United Airlines and other companies. "I learned from him how to be a counselor to CEOs. He always was on his game when engaged with senior leadership.
"And he learned customer service very quickly. He brought communications and a sense of common purpose to the ground crews and flight crews."
In 1983, Baskfield was promoted to vice president of in-flight services and food service, responsible for 8,700 flight attendants and food service personnel. In 1987, he was tapped to head ground services and customer relations, overseeing 10,700 baggage handlers, ticket agents, mechanics and customer service personnel.
Baskfield introduced programs to recognize employees for exemplary service and added ground equipment that led to performance improvements.
After the sale of Northwest in 1989 to a leveraged-buyout group, Baskfield left the airline for the former West Publishing Co.
He later held executive posts at American Research Corp., ACI Telecentrics and United Properties.
Tyler Baskfield said his father was, above all, a family man, who enjoyed dancing with his wife, Florence, traveling with her around the world, and studying art. He also was dedicated the Catholic Church.
Baskfield served two terms as president of the Minnesota Club, was a board member of the Coss Family Foundation, United Way of St. Paul, the Minnesota Museum of Art, the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, Boy Scouts of America and the St. Croix Chapter of the Girl Scouts of America.
Baskfield is survived by his wife, Florence, sons Judson and Tyler, and five grandchildren who delighted in his boat and jeep rides at the family cabin near Brainerd.
Services have been held.