Beatrice (Bea) Shepard

  • "Bea taught our Sunday School class when we lived in Juneau..."
    - Jim and Carolyn Moore
  • "I always think of Bea and of Claudia whenever I see snow..."
    - Patsy Popejoy Nordmark
  • "The sweet aroma of warm wax-- May it stream across the cold..."
    - Lavonne Heacock
  • "Yes! Just like my dear sisters, I benefited from Bea's..."
    - Lavonne Heacock
  • "I loved the church potlucks too, and Bea and Claudia were a..."
    - Lorelle Becton

Beatrice Louise (Bea) Shepard was born to James Wesley Shepard and Ona Ola (Kinney) Shepard on May 15, 1919 in Hillsdale, Michigan. Bea died November 1, 2013 in Juneau, Alaska of heart failure.

Bea graduated from the University of California - Berkeley in 1940 with a degree in Zoology. Her last college course in bacteriology set her on a lifetime career. There she learned techniques in the first lab that grew tuberculosis cells preparing her for the fight against TB in Alaska. Bea applied for a bacteriologist job with the Alaska Territory Department of Health. She arrived in Juneau in November of 1946 with her friend and roommate Claudia Kelsey and began a career with the Territorial and State Departments of Health as a microbiologist and chemist.

In 1951 Bea and Claudia traveled throughout the state for the U.S. Air Force to write "Wild and Edible Plants of Alaska", a manual provided to pilots flying in Alaska. Bea worked as the chemist for the project, Claudia provided the botanical expertise and detailed botanical illustrations and Dr. Christine Heller was the nutritionist. Their work can still be found in books used by the University of Alaska Extension Service.

While her life work was in the Alaska Public Health Laboratories, the rest of her life was built around church work. Bea was closely involved in the Juneau and Douglas Methodist churches including being a member of United Methodist Women for over 65 years. In the early 1970's Bea was appointed lay pastor for the Douglas Community United Methodist Church for five years. Bea led many Sunday school and Bible study classes over 60 years. On the Sunday preceding her death, Bea preached her last sermon in Douglas.

In 1955 the first Methodist Volunteer in Mission Team arrived to start building the Eagle River Methodist Camp at Mile 28. Bea was very involved in the camp and served on the board of directors for 60 years and was instrumental in the camp receiving the title to the land it sits on after 40 years of working on it.

In 1977, Bea retired so she could chair the building committee of the Douglas Community United Methodist Church. She also served as the head historian for the Alaska Missionary Conference for 24 years; on the General Commission on Archives and History and Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

Bea was a docent at the Alaska State Museum and Advocacy Chair for Museums Alaska for many years. Clark Gruening said "Bea was instrumental in obtaining funds for and pushing forward the new Alaska State Museum in Juneau." In her last several years she created the Aunt Claudia Doll Museum, to preserve Claudia Kelsey's over five hundred dolls.

Bea co-wrote both Praise the Lord, Pass the Penicillin, Have Gospel Tent Will Travel, and 100 Years of Alaska Methodism. At the time of her death, Bea was writing a history of the Eagle River Methodist Camp. She wrote for the "Living and Growing" column in the Juneau Empire, professional papers and chapters for other books. Bea was an advocate for many causes and Alaskan legislators were regularly blessed with her opinions.

Awards: Outstanding Lay Person of the Year in 1986 from Alaska Conference of the United Methodist Church, Meritorious Health Service in 1990 given by the Alaska Public Heath Association, Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 from the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.

Bea was an avid photographer and applied her craft both in her career and as a hobby having her own dark room. She loved to read and seldom passed up a chance to buy a book. History of the Civil War and Alaska were two of her favorite subjects to learn about.

Bea was preceded in death by her dear friend and housemate Claudia Kelsey in 2007. Like many in Alaska, Bea her own family and they were her church family. In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Douglas Community United Methodist Church, PO Box 240509, Douglas, AK 99824 which was at the center of Bea's life for so many years.

Memorial service for Bea Shepard will be Nov. 30th at two o'clock at the Douglas Community United Methodist Church.

Published in Anchorage Daily News from Nov. 24 to Nov. 25, 2013
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