|Laura, Donna, Russell, Cathy and Dot Beason
Our mother laughingly says that everything she learned, she learned the hard way. Except the Golden Rule. The deceptively simple principle that says only that you treat others as you want to be treated yourself. That she learned early and easily and deeply from her second generation German-American parents, Floyd and Vena (Ritter) State. During the depths of the Depression, as they struggled to support their own growing family, it wasn't uncommon for our grandfather, who worked at the train station in the small town of Dows, to Bend rail- riding hobos home where our grandmother would feed them.
Our mother saw nothing extraordinary about this. At a time when "nobody had anything," you still shared what you had. That simple, active compassion has guided her entire life, gracing it and those she's touched with exceptional love, with an every-day heroism that we, her children, celebrate and honor every time we touch another life with love.
In many ways, our mother is a woman of her time and place. Born on a Wright County farm in 1925, she grew up in small Iowa towns -- Dows and Grinnell -- and was educated in Iowa public schools. She could race around her neighborhood barefoot,, but she went to church with her hair curled and ruffles starched.
She graduated from high school in the middle of World War II, and moved to Los Angeles where she worked as a riveter on the swing shift at Douglas Aircraft. She went to the beach with her girlfriends, heard Nat King Cole sing at a movie palace, and learned to smoke.
She married a boy from back home, Donald Beason, a Navy signalman while he was taking "amphib" training in preparation for the invasion of Japan. With apartments scarce, they lived in a "sleeping room" in a private home until our father shipped out for Japan a month later. When the war ended in August, she celebrated the whole day dancing and singing in the streets of downtown San Diego. And in April 1946, she contributed one of the first babies, a daughter, Donna, to what would become the Baby Boom.
Four more of us followed -- Russell in 1947, Catherine in 1949, Laura in 1954, and Dorothy in 1957. Materially, things were seldom easy for our parents. They raised us on a shoestring, with mother frequently taking waitressing or factory work to help pay bills.
Yet for all her outside work, we never went without home-cooked meals, clean -- and often home-made -- clothes, a warm and comfortable home, and, most importantly, her attention.
It was impossible to feel scared or hurt or lonely with her arms around you. And her arms were often around us. For her, touch was love. She rocked us, held us, stroked our hair, rubbed our backs, held our hands. She listened, she understood, she comforted.
She taught us the Golden Rule. She taught us to be compassionate, open-minded, tolerant, non-judgmental. She taught us the importance of fairness. She taught us that goodness matters. She taught us that love is not a finite resource, but that love engenders love, and, especially that love should be expressed. She never preached, never lectured. Like her parents, she taught by the example of her daily life.
When the youngest of us was in high school, mother found a second career outside the home. She worked first at an egg processing factory, where she became a union steward, negotiating contracts and representing employees with grievances. She was never afraid to take responsibility and never believed in leaving a job for someone else to do.
She left to become a homemaker for Mahaska County Homemaker Services, an agency that provides homemaking services to the elderly and others to allow them to continue to live on their own. In three years, she went from an entry level job to director of the agency, a job usually requiring a college degree. Her boss saw that she was a natural manager, with an easy rapport with people and an enormous capacity to get things done.
She was able to deal as comfortably with a troubled young mother in danger of losing her children, as with the politically conservative men who allocated the county's funds, something she was able to accomplish because she doesn't classify, pigeon-hole, or label people. She meets them with an open mind and because she always looks for the good in people, she often finds it.
She was director of homemaking services for 10 years. At retirement she supervised a staff of 10 homemakers serving some 100 clients. Characteristically, what she loved about her job was what she learned: "There is no right or wrong way to do things. Just differences."
Over the years, she has given her time to many community groups, friends, neighbors, and to the other touchstones of her life -- the Lutheran church and the Democratic party, both part of parents' legacy.
She is a passionate Democrat. The saddest day of her young life was the day Franklin Roosevelt died; her highest expression of esteem is to call someone “a good Democrat.” In an overwhelmingly Republican country, she consistently raised money for the Democratic party. She was several time a delegate to district and state conventions and was invited to the White House under Jimmy Carter.
Compassion, strength, inexhaustible energy, hard-won wisdom, unfailing good humor: these are her treasures. True to her parents example, whe’s shared them with the people around her for 70 years, and will for the next quarter of her life. She is a rich soul She is an active heart.
Honored by: Donna, Russell, Catherine, Laura, and Dorothy Beason
Submitted on March 1995