Chief Ken Beaver 1947-2017

My father was born in August of 1947, to a family of world famous swimmers and swimming coaches. At the age of 15 on New Year’s Eve he met the love of a lifetime, my mother JoAnn. In the mid 1960s he joined the United States Naval Air Corp and served until the early 1970s. During that time Ken and JoAnn married and had a son, me. My sister Shelley was born four years later, with special needs, and my dad, while recognizing her challenges, never saw her as less than perfect, even at the most trying moments. During this time, he was working in the silk screen industry developing the process that would become how silk screen is printed to Mylar.
In the late mid-1970s he decided to move his family north from the city to the rural community of Nevada City. There he developed friendships that would last the rest of his life. He built a small cabin from scraps he obtained working in construction. To this day I look back on that home built from the bones of a tool shed with very happy memories. We didn’t have much but we had family and I learned there is real power in that; you can survive anything. I would revisit this cabin 35 years later, and find it still standing and the tire swing that provided hours of joy for me and Shelley still there, a testament to his skill as a builder.
We left Nevada City and headed to Downieville where he became the Fire Chief and my mom the dispatcher. He transformed that small community volunteer fire department. He was proud of the men and women he worked with, trained, watched grow. You were his second family.
Ken and JoAnn eventually left Downieville and headed to Idaho and lived there a few years before taking the life of full time RVers. They would spend time in the desert and the west visiting with friends and family. Eventually they would settle down as Texas residents and then purchased a farm in Oregon.
As a child, I had the best play area ever: my dad’s wood shop. However, there were serious rules, which I mostly tried to follow. I learned that 220 power hurts, saws are sharp, “tools are NOT toys”, and “Do as I say, not as I do.”
I also learned that my dad could build anything out of wood. If I could draw it or show him a picture, he could build it. I always thought that was so cool, not realizing the necessity of it because my parents couldn’t really afford the fancy toys their wide-eyed boy saw in every Sears catalog each year.
I learned to love camping, fishing, off-roading and listening to John Denver from my dad. We explored the back country as a family with Grandma’s Feather Bed and County Roads playing in the Jeep on the 8 track.
One holiday we saw a couple on the side of the road. We stopped and tried to help. They were stranded. My dad put them in his truck, took them to our house, and they stayed with us for a few days while their car got fixed. When they asked how they could repay us, my mom and dad said simply; you will see someone else in need some day. Help them. A few years later they received a card that simply said: “debt paid in full.”
Each summer I worked for my dad, and was usually fired a least once. While I thought he had been too hard on me, looking back, I deserved it. Nothing builds character like having to tell your mom that dad fired you. Again. No matter how the teenage mind tried to justify how I was right and he was wrong, in the end I would learn, and usually a few weeks later he would wake me early to ask why I wasn’t ready yet…and in my foggy sleepy teenage brain the joy of working with my dad would kick in and I would rush to get ready to go to work with him again.
He never missed a basketball game or skiing trip, He would drive the bus to make sure he could be there. I was never good at basketball, but my dad was always there.
At home when the pager went off he was always first out the door. It didn’t matter what was happening at home. He sacrificed a lot of family time to save others, to console family members who had just lost someone or just to ensure the safety of the community. I didn’t understand then, but later I did, and I am proud he did that.
In the mid 2000s I was given an opportunity I am glad I had, the chance to work with my dad again. We had to remodel an in-laws’ home to help sell it. I spent six months watching my father as he transformed this unsaleable home into a beautiful piece of art. All the lessons I never heeded as a child working for him became real. I stood in awe. Wondering why I had never seen it before, I realized I had. I was just too young to appreciate his skills. In that moment, I was 14 again and looking up to my pa with love and pride. I will always treasure that time.
Shortly after Ken and JoAnn purchased the farm in Oregon they would experience a loss no parent should have to, the passing of a child. Shelley passed away from complications with diabetes. He didn’t always show it but every day he felt that loss.
When I started dating my wife, it brought my parents two grandchildren. He loved those kids, and would have the biggest grin giving them tractor rides or watching them play. He laughed the hardest watching them. On the day he passed, he and I were talking about them visiting and how he was going to work on various things in the house, and spend time with kids. Those times didn’t come, but the memories of the ones before will be with us forever.
As I write this and think of my wife, son and daughter; I hope I will be at least a quarter of the man he was, for them, because even in that I will be a better man for it. He was never perfect, but he was and will always be my hero.
Ken’s lessons for life:
When you find that love, hold on no matter what.
Family will get you through anything no matter how hard 220v hurts.
Do what’s right even when it doesn’t help you.
Do as I say not as I do.
When you see someone in need, help them.
John Denver is the right music when exploring the back country.
Tools are NOT toys
End of Watch – Ken Beaver 11/15/2017. I got this, Chief.
Your son, Michael

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