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Of Sudbury, MA, and formerly of Watertown, CT, died after a determined fight against cancer, on Wednesday, January 12, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He was the husband of the late Dianne (Fitzgerald) Beeler. Mr. Beeler was born on June 22, 1934, in Coal Valley, PA, the son of the late John Stokes and Hilda (Muster) Stokes, and stepson of the late Earl Beeler and Margaret Beeler, also of Coal Valley, PA. Mr. Beeler graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1964, and later earned an executive MBA from the University of New Haven (CT).
His life got off to a tragic and hard start, when soon after he and his twin brother, Tom, were born, his mother died leaving his father with four young children. Unable to shoulder this burden, the father sent the twins to Coal Valley, PA, to be raised by their aunt and her husband who had four children of their own. Mr. Beeler remained estranged from his birth father for most of his life, speaking to him rarely. Despite the lack of a father to help guide, hold, and mold him – perhaps because of this void – he developed into the most caring, dependable, and inspiring father for his own four sons. Mr. Beeler was always close to his twin brother, and the pair generally spoke weekly, sharing confidences and occasionally getting under each other’s skin as only good and loving brothers can. Tom predeceased him in 2008.
Shortly after enrolling in college in 1957, Mr. Beeler’s life and luck changed when he met a young woman from Somerville, MA. After a bit of work, he began a courtship with Dianne Fitzgerald, that in the custom of the time included a lawn-to-dormitory serenade. Mr. Beeler sang “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady, as some residents of the women’s dorm swooned as they tried to identify the lucky target of his affection. The couple began one of the great romances that spanned 53 years of marriage, inseparable, and brought four sons. In his memoir, Mr. Beeler labeled his marriage “most significant”, and said his wife was “the best thing that ever happened to me”. After Mrs. Beeler’s unexpected death in 2014, despite a determination to live a full life without her, it was obvious he carried on with a broken heart.
A strong believer in civic engagement, Mr. Beeler for most of his adult life filled leadership roles in public education and elder affairs. Most recently, he worked tirelessly as chairperson and member of Sudbury’s Council on Aging to help gain approval for the new Senior Center. The senior facility will be part of the $28.8M Fairbank Community Center Project in Sudbury, MA. Mr. Beeler also served as a board member of BayPath Elder Services, Inc. For more than 15 years in the 1980s and 1990s, he served on the Watertown (Connecticut) Board of Education, serving as its chairman at various times.
He was man of action, who didn’t wait for someone else to step up when faced with an emergency, or when someone’s life was at risk. On four occasions, Mr. Beeler cleared the airways of choking victims – three of them children. In the 1970s, he raced to a NH hospital with a young employee who had slipped and crashed through a floor-to-ceiling window. In Watertown, CT, when neighbors called for help when their curtains were set ablaze, he ran across the street with his household fire extinguisher to quell the flames. Whether innate, or a consequence of his experience and training in the U.S. Military Services, those that were helped – and those who observed – were fortunate. Mr. Beeler was a proud Army Security Agency veteran, who served, beginning in 1954, for 2-1/2 years in the Philippines just after the close of the Korean War. He took his first college classes at the University of the Philippines (Clark Field), and later leveraged the G.I. Bill to finance his undergraduate education. Prior to his posting in the Philippines, he served in the U.S. Navy. His military service was transformative.
Mr. Beeler worked for years as assistant administrator, directing non-clinical operations at Bristol Hospital, Bristol, CT, his last position before retirement, and as district manager and director for various food service and hospitality companies. He had a talent for connecting at a personal level with his colleagues and employees, cultivating and developing staff, collaboration, and for helping to bring the best out in people. He retired in 2002.
As the 1960s ended, an opportunity directing food service at what was then Endicott Junior College, in Beverly, MA, led to a teaching opportunity. Mr. Beeler initially worked as instructor and assistant professor, and later became department head for Food Service Management at the college. He would later reflect fondly on these years as some of the best of his career.
Mr. Beeler was committed to his family, friends, and community. He was solid; a man who could be counted on. When he said he would do something, he followed through. When he said he would be somewhere, he would be – almost always early. He was often referred to by his sons as “The Rock”. He was so proud of his four accomplished sons, their brotherly bonds and friendship, and the lives they built for themselves and their families. He valued honest debate and enjoyed spirited conversation. He was forthright, grounded, led by example, pragmatic, savvy, a provider, a dedicated uncle, liked a game of chance, a raconteur, and life-long Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Surviving: Four sons, their wives, and six grandchildren. John D., and Gabrielle Ward Beeler, of Sharon, MA; Michael A., and Margaret Musa Beeler, of Westport, CT; Jeffrey S. Beeler, and Karen Darmer, of Sudbury, MA; and Jason F. Beeler, and Christina Kacmar, of Plympton, MA.
Services: Friends and family are welcome to join a Celebration of Life from 3 - 5 p.m., on Saturday, June 18, at John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park Street, Natick, MA. The memorial will be in person (MA) and virtual (details to follow). In lieu of flowers, donations can be mailed in John’s memory to: Friends, In care of Sudbury Senior Center, 40 Fairbank Road, Sudbury, MA, 01776. Checks payable to: “Friends of Sudbury Senior Citizens”.