Our Tribute to Bev

September 29th, 2010 – The Village Green Parkette, Thedford


A tree-planting in Memory of Beverley Anne (Burch) Beernink: 44 friends and family of Bev Beernink met at the parkette to plant a tree in Bev’s memory. It was a beautiful fall day, with a glorious pink sunset.

Our Tribute to Bev

We’ve come together here tonight, not to celebrate the birthday that Bev will never have, but to commemorate: we’re here to celebrate Friendship and Memories.

If there’s anyone here I haven’t met yet, my name is Mary Alderson. But there will be some people here tonight who still call me Mary Blewett. Tonight’s gathering was initiated by our “group of seven” – well, six, now that Bev’s left us – Joanne (McKellar) Vandersluis, Beth (Ross) Casey, Lorraine (Carson) Willemse, Lyn (Webster) Jay, Toni (Sutton) Backx, and of course Bev and me. The idea of doing something special to commemorate Bev was Toni’s brainchild, and soon the plan for this tree-planting was put in place.

Of this group of friends, Joanne and Bev have the longest connection – going back to early elementary school here in Thedford. Then Beth, Susie (Schlegel) Wilson & I met Bev when she came to Bosanquet Central School in Grade six

There were 13 new students in our class, transferred from Thedford Public School. My sister was teaching at Bosanquet at that time – and she told me that our teacher, Fran McIntyre – who we, of course, knew as Miss Patterson – called them the Dirty Dozen and Bev. Bev’s good friends were Darrell Laird, Mark Donald, Brad Willert and Tom Carrothers – and I’m pretty sure that Darrell, Mark and Brad were honourary members of the dirty dozen.

Then we all went to North Lambton Secondary School, where we became friends with Lorraine, Lyn and Toni. Later our group went to Fanshawe and Western at the same time, all of us living in apartments in London in various combinations.

Amazingly, we have all kept in touch over the years – letters, phone calls, visits, now email and facebook. We all attended each other’s weddings, and got together with babies on our knees, at Lorraine’s farm or my parents’ cottage at Ipperwash. Among the seven of us, we’ve raised 21 children.

When the kids got a little older, we starting going on outings without them. I remember lunches at the Schnitzel House, then dinners at the Olive Garden and Under the Volcano in London. Then there was a big trip to Toronto to see the ground-breaking musical, Show Boat. We were musical theatre aficionados before we even knew it. (Thomas still hasn’t forgiven me for not taking him along on that trip.) We had some cottage weekends – I remember going up to St. Josephs, and down to Port Stanley. Toni was the glue that brought us together for those trips.

Six years ago, we all went to the Grand in London to see the Sound of Music, and I think Bev especially enjoyed the theatre trips. She loved show tunes. And her favourite singer was Barbra Striesand. In fact, she and my son, Thomas, had a discussion a while ago, about who was better, Barbra or Celine. Well, apparently, Bev won that debate, because Thomas is here tonight to sing a Barbra song. I had hoped Streisand herself might come & sing it, but she was busy. There’s a favourite line in this song: “It’s the laughter we will remember” which is so true of our Bev. I’m sure I’ll always be able to hear her laugh. In keeping with our theme of Friendship and Memories, here’s The Way We Were.

(Thomas sings)

Memories, light the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories of the way we were.
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
smiles we give to one another
for the way we were.
Can it be that it was all so simple then
or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
tell me would we? Could we?
Memories, may be beautiful and yet
what’s too painful to remember
we simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter we will remember
whenever we remember
the way we were.

I would now like to read the inscription on the plaque, which is on the rock under the tree.

This tree was planted in memory of our dear friend

Beverley Anne (Burch) Beernink

on her birthday, September 29, 2010

Bev left us too soon on June 20, 2010

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for the better”

I was inspired to use that quote by a song entitled For Good. It’s from the Broadway musical “Wicked”, which is the pre-quel to “The Wizard of Oz”. It’s a duet between the Glinda, the good witch, and Elpheba, the wicked witch of the west, who wasn’t wicked at all. This song is about their friendship when they were college roommates, and it says “I was changed for the better because I knew you – Because I knew you, I was changed for good.”

That’s what Bev did; she brought out the best in others. She once told me that she was a “Glass half-full girl”. She was always optimistic, always ready for a laugh. My last conversation with her, just a few days before she died, illustrated this: I had just come from the dentist, where I found out that I needed dental surgery and crowns, which would be time consuming, painful and cost a couple thousand dollars. Plus I had to buy an expensive electric toothbrush. With all my whining, Bev started to giggle. “You make me laugh, girl” she said. In this world, where it is so easy to become jaded and cynical and sarcastic, Bev saw the bright side, and left us encouraged. She inspired us to see the half-full glass. Because we knew her, we have been changed for the better.

(Thomas sings)

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for
But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
And because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good…

Today is Bev’s birthday, and it would have been a milestone. She was the youngest of our group, and she would have been the last to reach this age. Ironically, it was Bev that talked about “freedom 55”, and how she was looking forward to it.

Unfortunately, she won’t become a Golden Girl with the rest of us, and that’s something we’ll always miss. But I thought about her this summer when I saw some Golden Girls re-runs on television.

There’s a line in their theme song, which aptly describes our Bev. “You’re a pal and a confidant.”

She was always a good pal, and she was indeed a good confidant. I could tell her anything – she listened well, she was never judgemental, and she was always supportive.

Which brings me back to the name of the Golden Girls song – “Thank you for being a friend.”

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant
And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see, the biggest gift would be from me
and the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend

We’re giving Bev something we hope will become the biggest gift – a tree in her memory. We want it to be known as “Bev’s Birch”.

Happy Birthday, Bev!

There are many people to thank:

Bev’s brother Dave, and Melinda who found this tree for us,
Bev’s sister Joanne, and Rick who helped with the preparation.
Lorraine and Harry who donated the rock, and Harry for transporting it.

Thank you to everyone who contributed towards the tree:
Joanne, Beth, Lyn, Lorraine, Toni and Susie – who was here last week, visiting from BC, and sends her regards to everyone – and Mark, Brad, Darrell, and Tom. Also, Mary Lou Glenn who has her own special memories of Bev, and Ruth Illman who enjoyed having Bev as a student, as well as Wayne & Bernie Hutton, Debbie Campbell and Heather Swenson. Any funds left over after the expenses are paid will go to the Heart & Stroike Foundation.

Thank you to Thomas for singing, to Chelsey for taking photos and video, and to Victor for all his help. 

The only thing that could possibly be more important than friendship is family, and so we say a special thank you to Jerry, Chris & Kerry, Mike & Jenna and Tim, as well as Dave and Joanne for sharing Bev with us.

Now, we would like to plant the tree, take some photos with it, and then we’re off to Grog’s to celebrate our memories of our good friend Bev.

Thank you for being a friend…..Thank you to all of you.

(Photos are posted on my facebook page.)


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