Beth Easton – a Life Well Lived
What contributes to a life well lived? Is it wealth, health, fame? Or is it a mixture of the people, opportunities and experiences one has encountered and how one has responded to these influences?
In Beth’s case, she was born in Casper on December 19, 1922, to parents Charles and Jessie Fowler. They were a good, hard working, loving couple with a strong Christian faith. Her father worked in Human Resources for an oil refinery, and her mother was a piano teacher and accompanist. Beth’s brother, Charles (Bud), was born two and a half years later, and although as adults they lived thousands of miles apart, they remained close throughout their lives. Another brother, Raymond, died in infancy.
When close friends were killed in an oil refinery explosion in Casper, the couple made a decision to move to Torrington, Wyoming, where other relatives had homesteaded, and there Beth’s family had a Guernsey dairy herd, raised chickens, and had a small holding where they grew various crops. As for many people, times were hard during the Depression years, but the nature of their work sustained them. This close knit community of family and friends was influential in shaping Beth’s outlook on life. Throughout her life she very much lived up to the sentiment expressed in the words of the evangelist, John Wesley:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
Not surprisingly for the daughter of a piano teacher, Beth had a love of classical music and was a talented pianist in her own right, serving as the accompanist for her high school music programs. However, it was her interest in home economics, that drove her to achieve a dietetics degree through studies at Hastings College and Iowa State University, and a dietetics internship at Indiana State University. In college she made a number of friends with whom she maintained lifelong friendships. These students were at the forefront of the development of food technology and much of what they developed and practiced is as relevant today as it was back in the 1940s.
It was through Beth’s qualification as a registered dietician that she took up a job in Sweetwater Memorial Hospital in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The story has it that the head of nursing, Grace Yenne, sold a ticket to a hospital dance to Beth, and one to John Easton, the bachelor brother of Grace’s soon to be daughter-in-law, Mary. We do not know if it was love at first sight, but suffice it to say that the couple liked each other enough to get married three months later in June 1948. They lived the first two years of married life in the coal mining camp of Winton where they enjoyed the bonds of friendship and camaraderie that held that community together.
Son Jim was born a year after their marriage, and daughter Cathy two years after that. They could see that the future of coal mining was limited, and so John got a job with Mountain Bell Telephone Company in Rock Springs, and transferred to Cheyenne where three more children were born – Susan, then Eric and Marian. Beth was the perfect ‘50s and ‘60s housewife, applying the skills she learned growing up and in college to homemaking - cooking, canning, baking, freezing, cleaning, and gardening. In every house they owned, Beth developed a vegetable and flower garden, and took great pleasure in creating and caring for the plants. At the same time she and John found time to support each child in their activities, ferrying them to classes and being a parent helper in school and in clubs. Education was seen as road to success, and they took pride in their children eventually achieving degrees in their chosen fields and careers.
When Marian was about to start school, Beth returned to college to retrain as a primary school teacher. This would give her school vacations to have with the children. She travelled for many months from Cheyenne to Laramie, summer and winter, to earn a teaching certification, all the while keeping the family going. Over the twenty-two years that Beth taught mainly at Davis Elementary, she touched the lives of many children, who remember her fondly as an excellent and dedicated teacher. Her friendships with colleagues from these years remained an important feature throughout her life.
In 1970, Beth and John started researching the possibility of building a cabin in the mountains. They selected a plot in Jelm, near Woods Landing on the Big Laramie River, some twenty-five miles southwest of Laramie. Here, with some help from family and friends, they planned and built their dream log cabin, a substantial structure that served the family well, over 46 years. It proved to be a perfect venue for entertaining family and friends, including telephone and school colleagues. They took great pleasure in the peacefulness and beauty of the land, the birds and the wildlife. Hummingbirds were regular visitors to the feeding stations, and became a symbol of the freedom and joy that was to be found at the cabin. Beth looked after John when he became ill in 1977 until he passed away in 1979, 31 years after they were married. Thereafter, she spent many days at the cabin through the summer and fall. Beth nurtured the trees and a beautiful little forest took hold.
The first grandchild arrived in 1976, and over the years a total of five grandchildren, three in England and two in California, and eight great-grandchildren in England, entertained Beth greatly. She cherished and took an interest in their lives. Although all lived some distance from Beth, she was there around the time of births for many of the grandchildren and provided her daughters, Marian and Cathy, with a fine example of what it takes to be a good mother. It was very special to have her at the marriages of the three English grandchildren. All the grandchildren and great-grandchildren held her in great admiration and affection.
A few years after John passed away, Beth also looked after her mother, Jessie, in her home, and eventually supported her in a nursing home. She was a devoted daughter who gave everything of herself to this role.
Beth’s household was always a hive of activity. She had many visitors and the telephone was always busy with conversations with friends. She was fortunate to live in a wonderful neighborhood, where they all looked out for each other. She made a point of visiting friends who were ill or housebound, and treated all with respect and kindness. She was unassuming, modest, generous, kind, and empathetic to others from diverse situations. As the world became more complex, Beth seemed to grow in understanding and grace. A well-loved daughter, sister, aunt, mother and cousin, Beth eventually became the matriarch for the extended family, and was a conduit for keeping people connected across time, distance and generations.
Beth was a founding member of Highlands United Presbyterian Church, Cheyenne, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. She served as an Elder over a number of years, sang in the choir, and was on many committees over this time. Her church friends remained constant and supportive of Beth throughout her life.
Of the many organizations that Beth belonged to, PEO was the one she held most dear to her heart. Until she moved to Casper in 2011, she attended meetings regularly, and was given an award that commemorated her 50 year membership as a founding member of PEO Chapter BA, that started in 1986. Her PEO sisters maintained an ongoing bond with her to the end.
In the 1970s, with the children flying the nest, Beth and John discovered that airplane travel had become more accessible to the ordinary man, and they were able to indulge in travel abroad. In 1975 they visited Scotland and England, where John had been born and where Cathy and her husband lived. The travel bug took hold, and Beth took many opportunities to travel with family and friends to the Bahamas, New Zealand, Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, New England, the South and the British Isles.
In her late 80s, Beth’s health began to deteriorate, first with the emergence of an autoimmune disease in her legs that began to cause mobility problems, then in 2010 when she suffered a pulmonary embolism on a family visit to Yellowstone. With her determination, courage, and the nursing support of her children over several months, she made such an amazing recovery that we affectionately dubbed her The Comeback Kid. However, this was the beginning of an acceptance that Beth needed to live in a retirement home where she would have less to manage and more support.
First she went to Aspen Wind in Cheyenne, then in 2011 moved to Primrose Retirement Community in Casper where Eric and Dawn would be able to accompany her to appointments, keep an oversight of her care and sort out ongoing issues as they arose. They worked very hard with her, and on her behalf, to provide a safety net that enabled her to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Primrose staff and residents were very fond of Beth and kind to her, and they offered a good home from home in the last six years of her life.
It was a sadness that Beth’s health took a turn for the worse this spring, but her peaceful passing on May 15th in Casper Hospital, where she was born 94 years previously, seemed a fitting end to an extraordinary life.
And so Beth’s life has indeed been a life well lived, full of faith, love, good family and many friends – a life that has been very blessed.
“Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”
Beth was preceded in death by her parents, Charles and Jessie (Anderson) Fowler; infant brother, Raymond; husband, John; and daughter in law, Judy.
She is survived by her brother, Bud (Rosie) Fowler, Annapolis, MD; and her children, Jim Easton, Glenwood Springs, CO; Cathy (Ian) Beeson, Banbury, England; Susan Easton (Charlie Fautin), Corvallis, OR; Eric (Dawn) Easton, Casper, WY; and Marian (Pat) Wimmer, San Jose, CA. She is also survived by grandchildren Sarah (Justin) Parker; Laura (Adam) Murphy; Paul (Helen) Beeson, all from England, Elizabeth Wimmer, Boston, MA and David Wimmer, CA.
She also had eight great grandchildren: Alice, Emily and Noah Parker; Ella, Beth and Cora Beeson; and Petula and Clementine Murphy.
The family request donations be made in Beth’s memory to the following organizations:
Church World Service
PO Box 968
Elkhart, IN 46515
1000 Corey St.,
Longmont, CO 80501
Highlands Presbyterian Church
2390 Pattison Drive
Cheyenne, WY 82009
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