Life Lessons From A Loving Family Man

by Kevin Burton

   I think of Herb Beauchamp and I keep coming back to the IRS term, “head of household.” 

   Tomorrow is Father’s Day. It will be the first for my wife Jeannette without her father Herb. He is still very much alive in a lot of ways that truly matter. Lessons taught, of perseverance, generosity, compassion.

   But it isn’t the same, as you know if you have lost a parent.

   I wrote about him a little after his death (My Wife’s Father, At Home In Heaven, May 15).

   With a little more time for reflection I want to give a more complete picture of my father-in-law who died May 13 of complications from pneumonia.  Some of the details in this post came from his obituary in the Hutchinson News.

    By “head of household,” I mean Herb was the river the governed in which direction the family flowed.  Jeannette says the thing her father would have wanted to be known for most, is being a family man.

   Herb was born in Kansas City, KS on June 28, 1932. He graduated from Sterling High School and later graduated with a B.S. degree in Microbiology with an emphasis in virology from University of Kansas in 1955.

   Herb married his wife Donna, Jeannette’s mother, twice. The first wedding had to be hush-hush because Donna was a student of nursing at and they were not allowed to be married.  The two were married for more than 68 years.

   After marrying Jeannette I was included in three large Beauchamp family events – two retreats to Colorado and the 60th wedding anniversary celebration, held in Hutchinson.  There were countless other smaller gatherings.

   Herb had a booming but soothing voice, which could often be heard above the din, joking, laughing or pushing the conversation toward resolutions to problems and questions.

   Herb was a virologist, which means he got up for his 7 a.m. classes in college.

   He was on the path toward becoming a doctor, to practice alongside his father, Jeannette’s grandfather. But he just loved virology and switched to that as a professional goal.

   Early in his career he saved the life of a young woman by correctly diagnosing her illness, when others could not. 

    Herb started his career as a virologist with the Kansas State Health Department in Topeka. He then established a virology lab at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, KS in 1959.

   At the age of 36 he established a virology lab for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, where he retired in 1990 after serving 22 years as chief virologist.

   If you google “Herbert Beauchamp virology” you will get more than one published paper that he co-authored with others.

   “The evaluation of microbial pathogens in sewage and sewage grown fish” is the title of one such paper.  Based on that title you might think this can’t be a guy you’d want to, or be able to, have a casual chat with. Nothing could be further from the truth.

   He was down-to-earth, easy-going. He was a sports fan, loyal enough to his alma mater that he watched the unwatchable KU football games as well as the basketball.

   One of the things he loved to do is go out to restaurants with his family. He always picked the best places to go.  I had to be sneaky sometimes to keep the check from going to him.  He would have paid for all those meals had Jeannette and I let him. 

   Herb enjoyed traveling with his wife, spending time with family and friends and loved gardening, a gift he inherited from his mother. He was also very active with the Lions Club and was a member of the Hutchison Moose Lodge.

   One indelible memory of mine: we were visiting Jeannette’s parents when they lived in Cottonwood, Arizona and for some silly reason I extended my hand to Jeannette and we were shaking hands. “Are you two acquainted,” Herb said. 

   I cracked up. I’ve never forgotten that and I can still hear his voice saying it.  Now that’s not a huge moment in family history, but it’s just an example of the way the man had of relating to people, wringing the fun out of every situation.

   Tomorrow on Father’s Day, if you are blessed to still have your father, call or visit. Take a moment to make a moment. You will never regret it. 

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