5/25/12 A Sad Goodbye
A SAD GOODBYE
Williams High School teacher, Ann Beamon, remembered
By Roselee Papandrea The Times-News 5/10/12
Reprinted with permission.
Photos by Jon Upchurch / Williams High School
Ann Beamon walks with her husband, Mike Beamon, in 2011 at Williams High School.
Ann Beamon was a Bulldog through and through. She was the teacher every student wanted, a people magnet, the glue that often held them all together at Williams High School.
She’d sing “Onward Bulldog” loud and proud, add black-and-gold ribbons to any decor, and whether there was a new student, teacher or administrator at the school, Beamon was known as the one-woman welcoming committee.
An Alamance County native, Beamon believed in community, whether it was at Williams High School, Burlington or her church, First Reformed United Church of Christ. She had a large circle of friends and to her, each one was dear. Her touch reached far, her impact was lasting, and now many — family, friends, teachers and former students — mourn her passing. Beamon died May 14 at her Glenwood Avenue home after a long battle with cancer. She was 60.
“Here’s Ann: She loved teaching. She loved Williams High School. She loved her students, and it showed in everything that she did,” said her husband of 15 years, Mike Beamon.
A 1970 graduate of Williams High School, Ann Beamon went on to what was then Elon College, finishing in three years and graduating as valedictorian. She started her career teaching math at Turrentine Middle School before taking time off to begin raising her three children, Andrea, Mary Margaret and Drew Porterfield.
She returned to work at her beloved alma mater in 1983 and taught algebra. Laura Sam, a choral and musical theater director at Williams High, met Beamon a year later and the two developed a strong bond. A former homecoming queen and active participant in musical productions, Beamon worked with Sam all the time to give back to the programs that had meant so much during her youth.
“She was a stage mother for years and years,” Sam said. “Two of her favorite things were painting bulldog makeup for homecoming, and she liked to help with costumes. She loved sequins and rhinestones. Ann was in charge of bedazzling.”
BEAMON HAD a gift. She could make costumes glimmer and spirits soar.
Ann Beamon, front center, stands with, second row from left, Mike Beamon and Laura Sam; third frow from left, retired football coach Sam Story, former Williams High School assistant principal John Heath, Williams principal Joe Ferril and Williams assistant principal Donna Westbrooks; and last row from left, Williams student and football player Alex Gee and Williams assistant principal Stefan Henderson.
“Ann didn’t teach the honors kids,” said Pat Askew, a fellow math teacher who knew Beamon for almost 30 years.
“She taught kids who struggled with math and who didn’t love it as much as she did. She loved those children, and they loved her.”
She inspired learning.
“She believed in them and gave them everything she had, and they performed for her mainly because they didn’t want to let Mrs. Beamon down,” Askew said.
Beamon was the kind of teacher students remembered forever.
“She just had that kind of influence on people,” Askew said. “It wasn’t really math that she taught them. She made them better people and in the process, they became better math students. She was really one of a kind.”
Whether it was a big event or a little one, Beamon loved marking occasions with a party. She opened her home and her arms to many. She never met a stranger.
“She didn’t include people. She almost embraced them,” said Bea Swajkoski, who was a counselor at Williams and close friends with Beamon. “Someone would ask, ‘Is it OK if I come?’ She would say, ‘We want you to come. It won’t be the same without you.’ She was a force to be reckoned with. She cared about everybody and brought them into the circle.”
Regardless of where she was or who she was with, Beamon believed in community and simply enjoyed being in high school.
“I would tell her, ‘This is irrational,’” Swajkoski remembered. “Then we would both laugh about it.”
BEAMON’S LOVE for Williams High knew no bounds.
“Ann Beamon had more school spirit than anybody I ever encountered,” Sam said. “She truly loved Williams High School and the Bulldogs.”
Later in her career, she became a curriculum facilitator at Williams and eventually moved to the central office to do the job at other high schools as well. That touch she had with students extended to teachers as well.
“She was a teacher’s teacher,” Sam said.
Mike Beamon, a 1965 graduate of Williams High School, didn’t really get to know Ann until she returned to Williams to teach. Mike Beamon was a coach and social studies teacher and for a long time, he and Ann were just colleagues. After they both divorced, their friendship deepened and eventually they started dating. They married in 1997, melding their two families — her three children and his two, Michael and Brent Beamon.
The couple honeymooned in New York City, and although their children were young adults in college, they went, too. They all stayed in a one-bedroom apartment.
“That’s the way the whole family worked,” Mike Beamon said. “It was a great situation.”
Seven years ago, Ann Beamon found out she was sick. Doctors knew she had cancer but were unclear about where it was located. She had a hysterectomy and an ovarian growth was removed. She had chemotherapy and, based on tests, all traces of the cancer whatever it was — were gone.
In December 2009,Beamon felt sick again. All symptoms pointed to appendicitis.
“We thought her appendix just needed to be removed and were really shocked to learn it was encapsulated in cancer,” Mike Beamon said.
She went to Wake Forest’s Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem and had a radical 10-hour surgery to treat appendiceal cancer. She spent two months at home recovering with her daughter Mary Margaret at her side as caregiver. In the winter of 2011, a blockage that was inoperable led to some difficult news.
“They couldn’t do anything,” Mike Beamon said. “The cancer spread. Doctors said she had maybe two or three days.”
A NATURALLY small woman, Ann Beamon had already lost a lot of weight and strength. Even though her body wasn’t cooperating, that same attitude and determination that always served her well helped defy odds.
She also had goals: Her son Drew was getting married in October 2011. Her retirement party was set for that September. Her 60th birthday was this past January.
“All along, there were little things that kept her going to continue to fight through this,” Mike Beamon said.
She made it to her retirement party and Drew’s marriage in Washington D.C. A 60th birthday party was held in her honor on Jan. 18. Mike and Ann Beamon celebrated their 15th anniversary March 14. On April 30, Mike Beamon’s son, Michael and wife, Dodi, had a baby girl they named Quinn.
“One of Ann’s goals was to be here when that baby was born,” Mike Beamon said.
On May 7, Ann Beamon met Quinn for the first time surrounded by her whole family. Even though she was bed-bound, she found the strength to sit up.
“She held that baby, smiled at her, loved her and talked to her,” Mike Beamon said. “It was like right there the circle of life was being met. You could see the joy in everybody’s eyes and you knew it was OK. She knew it was OK. But she was tired and in pain.”
During those last days, her daughter Andrea Eckberg was traveling a lot between Burlington and New Bern, where her husband David’s father also was dying. But Eckberg made it back to Burlington for Mother’s Day weekend.
“I think Ann was waiting for her to come back,” Mike Beamon said. “I really believe she knew what was going on.” The next night, May 14, she died.
Throughout her illness, the family, friends and colleagues that she spent a lifetime embracing, showed up in force to support her with cards, phone calls, hot meals and encouraging words.
“She was such a special person in a very unassuming way,” Mike Beamon said. “She didn’t need any accolades. People sought her out for her wisdom, her fun, her laughter and her energy.”
Their presence throughout helped.
“That’s what kept us going,” Mike Beamon said.
During her last days, Sam and Ann Beamon’s lifelong friend Nancy Burgess became her day-to-day caregivers. They walked hand-in-hand with her. She remained a teacher until the end.
“Ann taught me and I know she taught many people around her how to be a better friend, how to be the best friend,” Sam said. “It’s hard to put 28 years into a memory — all that comes with a friendship, all the meals shared, all the ups and downs of life shared.
“She was surrounded by her friends at her end because she was surrounded by friends throughout her life.”
Family and friends have started an Ann Beamon Memorial Scholarship that beginning next year will be given to a Williams High student in Beamon’s name. Donations may be made to Alamance Foundation, 330 South Greene St., Suite 100, Greensboro, NC 27401.