William "Sherman" Beacham MD (1932 - 2017)

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William "Sherman" Beacham MD, "Cub" to some and "Dad" to a privileged few, died December 31, 2017 at the age of 85 near Casa Grande, Arizona. He was born August 8, 1932 in Cedar City, Utah and raised in nearby Newcastle, where he grew up on a small family farm. Although it was the depression and he was the sixth of seven children, he always described his childhood in the happiest terms. He was much loved by his parents and he grew up playing, working and hunting in the hills of Southern Utah. His young life was full of work and he spent the first quarter of it farming, raising livestock, taming wild horses, picking potatoes and building hundreds of miles of wooden fence posts for the BLM, using only hand tools. His father was the Iron County water master, which meant that Sherman knew every reservoir, slough and irrigation ditch in more than three thousand square miles of Utah desert, and he was very proud of his dad's work. His favorite childhood memories include his mom's books, his dad's singing, his fast horse, fresh baked bread, homemade butter, peaches and roasted pine nuts.
As a young adult, Sherman worked for many years in an iron mine before pursuing a college education. Working graveyard shift in the mine and attending classes by day at the University of Southern Utah, he fell in love with science and medicine. After nearly a decade of not sleeping, he got his medical degree. He spent several years in clinical research at the University of Utah, Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. He was the only member of his medical class to turn down a faculty position at Stanford University. In fact, he had offers to conduct research all over the country, but ultimately he chose adventure and moved to Alaska in 1972 to be a full time clinician. There, he helped open the first Cardiac Care Unit, at what was then the Alaska Clinic. He provided excellent patient care for forty years, serving as Chief of Staff at Humana Hospital and working the last ten years as a clinician at the Veteran's Administration. He finally retired at the age of 80, under duress, because his wife Suzanne was "absolutely done with snow." They moved to Arizona in 2013.
Sherman had countless hobbies and adventures, including rock collecting, mining, hunting, rebuilding wrecked cars, art collecting, traveling, bird watching and mountain climbing. He once carried his wife Suzanne down the Grand Tetons when she turned her ankle on the climb. Together with his office partner, he built three fly-in hunting and fishing lodges in the remote Alaskan wilderness, two of which are still operational. He loved gambling, reading and all kinds of music. He could recite more poems from memory than most people will read in a lifetime, and if you were lucky enough to be nearby, he could sing like an angel. If angels drank whiskey and liked old cowboy songs.
Sherman was married twice to beautiful, spirited women. In the course of his domestic life he had 7 children, more than 30 grandchildren and over 100 great grandchildren. He was a husband, a father and a doctor and while he was loved in all these roles, his greatest gift to the world was his friendship. Sherm Beacham was the best friend anyone could have. He was always generous with his time, his resources, and his home. All times, day or night, a friend needed only to call. He was famous for treating all of his friends, colleagues and patients with enormous compassion and respect. He had friends from all walks of life and from all over the world. He could sing in at least five languages, more when he was drinking.
No one was more surprised than Sherman that he lived as long as he did. He made no effort to run or hide from death. He should have lost his life any number of times at sea, in the wilderness, in small aircraft and once on a sled, which he crashed during an ill-conceived trip down an icy hill after a night of celebrating with some paramedics who recently completed their training, which he provided. Although he was badly injured, the paramedics were able to save him from his injuries, and his wife. He finally died exactly as he lived, on his own terms and when he was ready. He found peace at last in his home, surrounded by loved ones. He was singing, smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey (to the consternation of many earnest, well-meaning nurses) right up to the end. His life was giant.
Sherman is painfully missed by his children, MaryAnn, Rodney, Kim, Cindy, Jane, Daniel and Abigail, and his great, lubberly Mastiffs, Henry and Isabelle. He joins his parents, George and Effie; his siblings Harvey, Florence, Zella, Sharon, Fern and Mitt; one sweet grandson, Jonathon, and one sweet great grandson, Gabriel. At last, he joins his beloved wife Suzanne Clifford Beacham, who has spent her time in death as she spent so much time in life, impatiently waiting for Sherm to come home.
Published in Anchorage Daily News on Jan. 24, 2018