Asheville - Ethel Koger Beckham died on Saturday, December 8th, in Asheville following an extended illness.
She was born on January 18, 1920 in Paducah, Kentucky to the late David Davis and Ethel Brooks Koger. After meeting her future husband in junior high school in Miami, Florida, Ethel and attorney, Walter H. Beckham, Jr., married in 1941 following her graduation from the University of Kentucky, where she earned her Bachelor's degree in Education, was president of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and a member of Kappa Delta Pi honor society. They were married 68 years prior to his death on October 4, 2011.
A gifted and charismatic leader, Ethel gave generously of herself throughout her lifetime, particularly to the Miami-Dade community. As a young woman she championed numerous
volunteer causes. In 1968 she was elected to the Dade County School Board where she served for 16 years both as a member and as the vice chairman. During those years she rose to distinction in her field, serving as president of the Florida School Boards Association and as president of the Southern Region of the National School Boards Association. Ethel was appointed by the governor to the Florida Commission of Teacher Education on which she served two terms, and was appointed to the Board of National Career Education in Washington D.C., where on numerous occasions she both lobbied and testified before congressional committees regarding education. Her tenure on the Dade County School Board came during turbulent times for the Miami community. She took office during a statewide teacher's strike and then helped facilitate court-ordered desegregation. To ease tensions she spearheaded a series of Town Hall Board meetings on live television, which brought the Board closer to the community. She was a strong supporter of the system's drug abuse prevention program, which became a national model, was instrumental in achieving the expansion of the community school program, was a leader in the development and expansion of hi-lingual education and was an aggressive proponent of Dade County's career education program. It was a fitting tribute to her years of service that the Ethel Koger Beckham Elementary School in Miami was named in her honor. She was so proud of her "Beckham Bears'" for their recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School and a Title 1 Distinguished School. They were ranked 5th in 2012 among all elementary schools in the state of Florida for high academic standards.
At the time of her death Ethel retained her memberships in the First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables, where she was a member for over 60 years, the Colonial Dames of America, and P.E.O. She made many friends of all ages both in Asheville and in Miami and all who loved her will greatly miss her charm, her intelligence, her curiosity and her passion for life.
Ethel is survived by a daughter and son-in-law Drs. Barbara and Jim DeLeo of Asheville, son Walter Beckham III of Atlanta, son and daughter-in-law Jim and Thorne Beckham of Coral Gables, Florida, five grandchildren, to include Jonathan and Myra Rice of Asheville, five great-grandchildren and nine nieces and nephews.
The family would especially like to thank Dr. Lucian Rice, CarePartners Hospice and the staff of Advantage Care Services, (in particular Teresa Christenbury, Donna Wells and Karen Miller) for their compassionate care and support during both Ethel and Walter's final illnesses. A memorial service will be held on Monday, December 17th at 10 AM in the chapel of the First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables. Interment will be at Woodlawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery North. Following the services the family will receive friends at the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables. In lieu of flowers those wishing to do so may make a donation in her honor to the Ethel Koger Beckham Elementary School at 4702 S.W. 143rd Court, Miami, Florida 33175.
Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian is assisting the family and the memorial register is available at www.grocefuneralhome.com