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1941 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
William Humphrey Beik (Bill), aged 76, eminent scholar of early modern French history, died on Thursday, August 31, 2017, at the Forbes West Penn hospice in Pittsburgh. For the past 20 years, until his death, he valiantly struggled against Parkinson's disease. Bill (1941-2017) was an admirer of working people in France and Pittsburgh. Many years of travel and research in France fostered a profound love of the French spirit of liberty, its people, its countryside, especially its soul, Paris, City of Light. His interest in popular rebellion attracted him to Pittsburgh's working class history, especially the 1892 Homestead Strike. He began visiting France in his childhood. From the late 1940s, his father, Paul Beik, a professor of history at Swarthmore College (1946-1980) traveled there to do original research on the French Revolution. Bill attended French schools and learned to love walking the streets of Paris. He later graduated from Haverford College (1963) and Harvard University (1969). Bill was a devoted teacher at Northern Illinois University for 22 years (1968-1990) where he engaged his working class students and supported protests against the Vietnam War, editing a student countercultural paper "The News from Nowhere." An ardent audiovisualist, he united music and slides in his lectures and created video memories of France and Europe. In 1990 he became professor of French history at Emory University in Atlanta and was widely recognized as an expert on the age of Louis XIV. Among his books are: Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth Century France and Urban Protests in Seventeenth Century France. In 2007, Bill and his wife, Millie retired to Pittsburgh, first to Mt. Washington and later to Upper St. Clair. They found an extended family with the Battle of Homestead Foundation and regularly attended weekly breakfasts and educational programs. Bill's parents (Paul H. Beik and Doris Humphrey Beik) preceded Bill in death as did his stepson, John Eric Kauffman. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Millie Beik; his stepson, Carl Kauffman; his brother, Steve Beik; cousins, Jeanne Mattole, Bonnie Robicheau, Margaret McGuire, Janet Beik, Linda Beik, David Beik; plus nieces and nephews. For those who wish, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to , Haverford College, or the local Battle of Homestead Foundation, P.O. Box 339, Homestead, PA 15120. Plans for a memorial service are pending.
Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Sept. 5 to Sept. 6, 2017
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