Beatrice Louise "Bea" Shepard (1919 - 2013)

  • "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 at the age of 94.
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 of service in public health. There she learned techniques in the first lab that grew tuberculosis cells preparing her for the fight against TB in Alaska. She worked in the laboratories of the largest hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange Counties in California. Having seen an ad in a journal that the Alaska Territory needed a bacteriologist in their Public Health agency, she applied on a whim and then accepted the position when offered. 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 that lasted until 1977.
In 1951 Bea and Claudia took part in a great adventure. They traveled throughout the state for the U.S. Air Force to write "Wild and Edible Plants of Alaska", a manual provided to pilots flying over the arctic. 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. Bea belonged to the Juneau Botany club from 1946 till it's closing.
While her life work was in the Alaska Public Health Laboratories, which she referred to as simply "the lab" the rest of her life was built around church work. She and Claudia sang in the Juneau Methodist church their first Sunday in Juneau and both remained closely involved in the Juneau and Douglas Methodist churches for the rest of their lives. Bea was 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 on Heritage Sunday marking the 67th anniversary of the church's charter.
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 loved being there. She served on the board of directors of the camp 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 from the Alaska Department of Health to start a new chapter in her life. The Douglas Community United Methodist Church was building an addition and Bea wanted to be free to chair the building committee. Plus there were a few other projects she had in mind. Like serving as the head historian for the Alaska Missionary Conference for 24 years. She was a member of the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church and the Western Jurisdiction Commission on Archives and History. She served as editor and publisher for the church, camp, Western Jurisdiction and several other newsletters.
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." Bea also served on the Juneau Commission on Aging. In her last several years she created the Aunt Claudia Doll Museum to preserve Claudia Kelsey's over five hundred dolls for the benefit of the people of Juneau.
Bea co-wrote both 'Praise the Lord and Pass the Penicillin' and 'Have Gospel Tent Will Travel, 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 by the 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 and explore.
Bea was preceded in death by her dear friend and housemate Claudia Kelsey in 2007. Bea is survived by several cousins: Ev Brown of Indianapolis; Ruth Riley and Barbara Frederick both of Lambertville, Michigan; Janice Shepard Bryant of Georgetown, California and Bud Shepard of Oklahoma City. Like many in Alaska Bea made her own family here.
Family she leaves behind include John and Debra Gerrish of Juneau and their family, Christy, Greg and Chianna Gendron of Juneau and Debra, Ron and Caden Woodbury of Seattle; Maureen and Larry Weeks; her church family in Douglas; Wendy Swedell of Juneau; Merritt Andruss of Philadelphia; Ila Little of Juneau; Pam Moore of Moweaqua, Illinois and her museum family.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made 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.
Bea's Shepard's memorial service will be on Nov. 30th at two o'clock at the Douglas Community United Methodist Church. It is located at 1106 Third Street across from the fire hall and the phone is 364-2408.
Potluck reception to follow the service because Bea loved potlucks at the church.
Published in The Juneau Empire on Nov. 24, 2013
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